Today’s JAR: Experiencing the Fast

Once in a while I write JARs, which stands for “just a reminder.” It’s the stuff you probably already know, but might have forgotten. For example, what is the difference between experiencing the fast and just fasting?

We are about to finish Great Lent and enter Holy Week, and I am wondering if I did a good job fasting. I followed the fasting guidelines in what I did and didn’t eat… Not sure I can say it was to the “best” of my abilities… but now I am wondering if I experienced the fast or just fasted? Meaning, did I let the fast do what it was supposed to do? Did I offer my will to God more during this season? Was I gluttonous? Did I let the food become a distraction? Did I recognize what hunger means and that my souls should hunger for God in the way my tummy grumbled?

But it goes even a little further.

Last week I noticed something interesting during the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy that had to do with experiencing the fast.

Experiencing the Fast

Confession time. Last week I wimped out and chose to eat a late lunch instead of prepare to receive communion for Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. I attended the service all the same. I thought that if I was at least in the church for the service I would receive a blessing via osmosis. Maybe?

Participating in the service on a semi-full stomach changed the experience. First, it was strange because I wasn’t tired. I was actually quite refreshed. What’s wrong with that? It made reading the Psalms a different experience.

In the service we read:

Psalm 129/130 Out of the depths I have cried out to you: Lord, Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my plea. If you retain sins, Lord, O Lord, who can stand? With you there is forgiveness. For your name’s sake, O Lord, I have waited for you. My soul has waited for your promise, my soul has hoped in the Lord. My soul has trusted in the Lord, from the morning watch till night. Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is steadfast love and in him is full redemption, and he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

On the other Wednesday nights, when I properly prepared for communion, by the time the service started, I was tired and hungry. I moved slowly and carefully. I could more easily relate with these words.

But my experience of the fast went a little further.

Waiting on God

Even the verse, “O Lord, I have waited for you. My soul has waited for your promise, my soul has hoped in the Lord.” has a different connotation when we are waiting for communion. When we fast and prepare, we are experiencing what it’s like to wait for God to satisfy our physical hunger, and even our spiritual hunger.

It’s not too late

It’s not too late to experience the fast. Holy Week in coming. The fast continues and there are lots of services offered. Don’t wimp out. Enter into the experience of what the Church is offering.

Navigating the Ocean of Lent

In this evening’s Vespers service I was drawn into the following hymn:

Your grace has shone forth, O Lord; the illumination of our souls has shone forth. Behold, this is the acceptable season; behold, this is the season of repentance. Let us put away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, so that we may navigate the immense ocean of Lent, and arrive at the third-day Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls.
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The imagery of an “ocean of Lent” was a great expression of what I had experienced in years past.  Allow me to explain.

The ocean is deep

Lent is deep.

Spiritual warfare comes in waves

Just when you think you have everything under control something comes and hits you upside the head like a bucket of water.

We need a ship to travel on the ocean

The ocean is no fun if you aren’t in a boat.  It’s actually dangerous. Lent doesn’t make sense if you don’t have the Church and the services to carry you along.

Just floating isn’t enough.  We have a journey ahead.

So it’s time to push off the pier, get in the boat and chart your course.  If you get wet, it’s ok.  If your boat tips, all the better. I mean, isn’t starting over one of the best advantages of Lent?

Let fasting be your wind, prayer your sail, repentance your rudder,  and charity you compass.  Your course has been set.  The map is tried and true.  Lent has begun.

Bon Voyage!

Cheese Fare Cornbread, Zymaropita

This cornbread is a real treat when you find yourself needing to clear out the fridge during cheese fare week.  It needs 4 zucchini, one onion and a box of JIFFY cornbread.  Then you add feta, cottage cheese and anything you have left.  I’ve made it with Parmesan, Asiago, ricotta, yogurt and even cream cheese.   Yumm!

ZYMAROPITA

Preheat oven to 375*

Grate 4 zucchini (I use a big food processor) and a pinch of salt. Let sit in a strainer to draw out the moisture.

Chop 1 Vidalia onion. Sautee onion in 2 T butter until transparent.

COMBINE:

  • 1 box Jiffy Corn Bread/Muffin Mix
  • ½ c cream of wheat,
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 16 oz. small curd cottage cheese
  • 8 oz. well crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ c milk
  • (I will also add any grated hard cheese I have including asiago, Parmesan, or Romano.)

Drain and squeeze zucchini and add to transparent onions and sauté for a few more minutes to remove more moisture.


Add zucchini/onion mixture to other ingredients in bowl. Stir and put in greased 9×13 cake pan.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden on top.


If you can wait, cool for 15 minutes.  You can also serve at room temperature or cold.  Any way you plate it, it’s delicious!

For the Lenten Season

The Prayer of St. Ephraim for the Lenten Season on a single card and in a pack of 10.

Preparing Koliva

Have you prepared koliva for memorials yet?  Here’s a video and recipe.

For a small memorial service, like Saturday of the Souls or a family memorial, you will need the following ingredients: 2 c whole wheat (uncooked), 1 c chopped walnuts, 1 c blanched / slivered almonds, 1/2 c raisins, 1/2 c golden raisins, 1/4 c Italian (flat) parsley, 1 c whole sesame seeds, 1 t cinnamon, 1 t pumpkin spice, 1 t honey, 2 c powdered sugar, Jordan Almonds.

Fast Free Week, Here We Come!

Okay!   It’s probably cold where you are and Spring is the last thing on your mind.  Gee!  we just finished celebrating the Presentation of Christ which is Jesus’ Forty Day Blessing… forty days following Christmas.  And just recently the Groundhog predicted another 6 weeks of Winter. But the Moveable Feasts of the Orthodox Christian Calendar tell us we are about the begin the Triodon, the three weeks before Great Lent, which means Easter is coming early this year.

What is the Triodion?

The Triodion is what Southerners refer to as “fixin’ to get ready.”  It’s the three week period where we slowly get into the right mindset for Great Lent.  You see the difference in the Sunday Gospel Readings and the fasting schedule.

Triodion Gospel Themes

You know the stories, they repeat every year but here’s a quick reference.

First Sunday: Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican  The Gospel according to Luke 18:2-8

Second Sunday: Sunday of the Prodigal Son The Gospel according to Luke 15:11-32

Third Sunday: Sunday of the Last Judgement The Gospel according to Matthew 25:31-46

Triodion Fasting Rules

And in the finest expression of Orthodoxy, the church has a special fasting practice for the Triodion.

Week One- FAST FREE WEEK!  Yup!  No fasting this week!  This is a good time to get it all out of your system.

Week Two- Regular (Wednesday and Friday) fasting.  This is a good week to clean out the refrigerator.

Week Three- Start by removing meat from your diet.  It’s a week to help you get in the mood.  I imagine going cold-turkey from meat and dairy would be rather traumatic.  This third week is the final step.

I hope you have a blessed journey this Lenten Season.

Come back for Lenten recipes in the coming weeks.

 

Rice Pudding

In a small saucepan simmer, after boil, 1 c long grain rice in 2 c water for 10 minutes or till liquid is absorbed.

In a larger pot warm 6 c milk (2%, skim or almond milk if you need a lenten dessert) with 1 c sugar and 1 t vanilla extract. Be careful not to scorch the milk. When rice is cooked and milk is warm, combine the two.

Continue cooking milk and rice over medium heat until rice is fully cooked and mixture has thickened, which should take another 40 minutes. STIR OFTEN!!

After 40 minutes whisk 1 T softened butter and 3 beaten egg yolks in a separate bowl. Do not add the egg mixture to the pudding until you temper it by slowly whisking it with 1/2 c of warm pudding. You can skip this step for a lenten recipe.

Add the tempered egg mixture to the pot of rice pudding.

Simmer another 2 minutes over medium heat.

Pour into individual serving bowls or a serving platter. Be sure to let the pudding cool to room temperature before you chill in the fridge or a film will form. You don’t want that.

When you are ready to serve, sprinkle with ground cinnamon.

Scoop out a portion and garnish with peach slices and homemade whipped cream. Yumm!!

 

Greek Potatoes in the Oven

 

Peel and cut 5 potatoes in half and then cut eat half into thirds.
Soak in water for a few minutes.

Remove from water and dry on paper towel and return to a dry bowl.

 

 

 

Marinate with 1 T olive oil, Cavendar’s seasoning, and lemon juice. If you don’t have Cavendar’s use dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Put marinated potatoes in a baking pan and roast about 50 minutes, stirring a few times for even browning.

I like Greek Potatoes in the Oven. It’s something we can all eat and pairs well with a side of hummus or steamed broccoli. I served them with sauteed shrimp and mushrooms.

Lenten Banana Bread

This Lenten Banana Bread is always a hit at church coffee hour.   It’s great with chocolate chips, walnuts, or cinnamon.

Start by preheating oven to 350 degrees.

In one bowl, mix dry ingredients (and then set aside)
3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt

In large bowl, beat together
3/4 c. oil  (I use 1/2 part vegetable and 1/2 part coconut oil)
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cold water
1 t vanilla extract

Slowly add dry mixture to wet mixture. The mixture will be thick but don’t worry. The bananas will add plenty of moisture.

Mash 3-4 bananas and incorporate into mixture

This was a double recipe.

Add 1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips.  (Ghirardelli are lenten.) or add 2 T ground cinnamon.  Or add 1 C chopped walnuts.

Pour into a greased loaf pans and bake for 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Or pour into lined cupcake trays and bake for 15 minutes.

If I need a quick cake, I pour the batter into a greased glass cake pan and bake for 30 minutes. I dust the top with cinnamon or powdered sugar for an added treat, but they are sweet enough that a topping really isn’t needed.

When I add walnuts, (my guys don’t like nuts) I like to add half walnuts on top so we can remember which ones have nuts and which don’t.

V’s CARDBOX

When you want them to remember what you wrote, write it on something they’ll keep.  

 

Today’s JAR : Christmas is a religious holiday, not a shopping season.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the Christmas shopping season and the false sense of want.  Ads and catalogues are being sent to our homes competing for attention. You probably think you need another “this” or two more of “that.”  The double page layouts can be very convincing.  Surely you know someone, anyone, who would appreciate item 4B on page 15, in multiple colors and sizes.

But this kind of thinking is exhausting, especially if you try to maintain it for 6 weeks, (which is evident by the abandoned naked pine trees and dark homes on December 26.)

Justify it as the virtue of giving all you like.  The truth is that it’s all a distraction from what really matters. Christmas is a religious holiday, not a shopping season.

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Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who created the universe, has chosen to enter into the limits of his creation.  And not as a mature man with the rights and privileges of adulthood, but as a tiny, vulnerable baby.

This is something awesome, something worthy of greater reflection than a moment of silence before you dig into a well-laid feast or rip open the boxes under the tree.

Keeping the Advent Fast is the best way to remember that Christmas is a religious holiday.

Why?  Fasting requires us to delay the celebration of Christ’s birth until Christ’s birthday.  It also allows the days preceding said celebration to be one of reflection and preparation.  If I might interject a commonly used phrase, it’s “the reason for the season.”

Don’t let the holiday activity distract you from the end prize, which is actually just the beginning.

The Advent Fast lasts November 15-December 24.  There is no fasting December 25- January 6, (except January 5 which is a strict fast day in preparation for Theophany.)

May we have a blessed fast which will prepare us for a glorious feast!