Great Lent: Five Major Misconceptions
Orthodox Monday begins Lent. Every year it is accompanied by numerous disputes about what can and cannot be eaten, how to dress, and so on.
Strictly according to the charter
This year, only 11 percent of Russians intend to observe the Great Lent. “Typical fasting,” according to VTsIOM, is a woman over 45 years old. Most Russians, according to the survey, are not going to limit themselves to anything.
“Every fifth (20 percent) has not yet decided, and 66 percent, on the contrary, know for sure that they will not limit themselves in food and actions,” sociologists say.
Perhaps many are not so much afraid of the duration as the severity of fasting. In the first two days it is supposed to completely refuse food, and then allow yourself no more than two meals a day – this is what the church charter says (Typicon).
However, the Russian Orthodox Church emphasizes that the Typicon is for the laity only a guideline, and not a strict law.
“Each has its own characteristics, each solves its own problem. The meaning of the post is not to not eat and not to do something. The point is to restore the “paradise subordination” of the body to the soul, and the soul to the spirit. Therefore, someone needs more strictly than what is written in the charter, fasting, someone less. There should be not a mechanical, but a spiritual attitude to everything that happens, ”explains Archpriest Igor Fomin, Rector of the Alexander Nevsky Church at MGIMO.
But how to understand how to fast? It is necessary, notes the clergyman, to pay attention to the result. “If you don’t see in yourself any changes and changes from fasting, it’s worth considering,” he says.
When Lent ends
The tradition of fasting before Easter arose among Christians at least in the 2nd century. The post lasted only 40 hours – from Good Friday to Easter. A century later, in some communities, they fasted for six days. And in the IV-V centuries, the Church declared Lent obligatory for believers. His prototype is the forty-day stay of Jesus Christ in the wilderness before he began his sermon.
This year, Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on April 8, and Lent, called the “Holy Pentecost,” begins on February 19. A logical question arises: why should you fast for 49, not 40 days?
The fact is that Lent ends on Lazarus Saturday (March 31), and from the next day – the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) – a special, Holy Week begins, which, by sense, is the most important for believers.
“Holy Week is seen as a special period when we chronologically experience the events before Easter day after day. But from the point of view of abstinence from food and entertainment, this period – from February 19 to April 8 – can be considered as a single one, ”emphasizes Archpriest Maxim Kozlov, professor of the Moscow Theological Academy.
The main thing is without food
“Now, Great Lent will begin, so you’ll go on a diet,” – this phrase, accidentally heard on the street at the very height of Maslenitsa, makes you wonder if there is a difference between diet and fasting.
It turns out there is, and substantial. Fasting is a deliberate conscious and voluntary self-restraint, including in food, says Father Maxim Kozlov. Although without the physical component (if you do not take into account, for example, patients or pregnant women) there is no fasting. Abstinence from your favorite food, as Kozlov explains, is also a test.
“If a person is able for Christ’s sake to give up at least pleasant, tasty food, then you can see something more. And if he says that it doesn’t matter, then he can be asked the following question: “If it doesn’t matter, then why don’t you refuse?” – says the archpriest.
At the same time, fasting is necessary without fanaticism. Although it’s not worth giving yourself an indulgence without good reason.
“When, for example, we are talking about low hemoglobin and the doctor recommends eating a liver for a couple, then eat it. But only this does not mean that if you eat it, then you can give permission for everything: together with the liver – for barbecue on coals, vodka for it, red wine for additional hemoglobin, and so on. For a patient, literally following a diet is also a kind of fast, ”adds a professor at the Theological Academy.
Only in black clothes
In the Lenten Orthodox services, a call to repentance is constantly heard. The church insists on paying special attention to prayer and going to the temple more often. Patriarch Kirill, for example, in the first week of Lent will serve every day in the morning and in the evening in different churches of Moscow and Moscow Region.
But if Lent is so important, then perhaps the Orthodox person needs to somehow emphasize this – to dress in a special way, to walk with a stern face? Not out of nowhere, the expression “lean mine” arose.
“The monks wear black clothes. Monks have a certain way of life. The famous Athos archimandrite Ephraim once very well said: “If monks do not live like monks, this is very bad. But if the laity are trying to live a monastic life, then this is also very bad, ”says the well-known church journalist, Hieromonk Makarii (Markish).