Is Lent over yet?

Is Lent over yet?

This is the cry running through my head midway through the second day of Holy and Great Lent.

The second day!

What was happening?!

I love Lent! I love the yearly opportunity to regroup. I love the prayer services. I love the chance to focus on a healthier diet. I love the challenge of quieting down the world and working on the stillness for the sake of my soul.

But this year I am not prepared. My refrigerator is still harboring contraband. My pantry isn’t stocked with enough vegan ingredients to prepare anything more interesting than pasta or rice. And my house is a complete mess. This is not the way I wanted to start Lent.

And then I made the rookie mistake and went on Facebook first thing in the morning! I KNOW! What was I thinking?

Facebook can be a place of encouragement during the fast with recipes and inspiring quotes from the Bible and Elders… but not yesterday. Yesterday every comment was (or seemed to be) an attack on my senses. Unwanted advice, boasts of “holier than thou” comments, delicious vegan meals, and amateur debates on what the Fast really was had me in a tizzy. I must have replied to a snarky comment 20 times before I actually clicked send. And that’s when I realized it was me. I was a the mess.

Was it the detox from removing meat just a week ago? Was it my gluttony searching for a pathetic excuse to eat an egg? Was it my ego needing to be the only online expert? Probably more the last than any of the others.

I do like being a know it all. It’s comforting to think I have it all together.

But I don’t know it all. It’s not realistic. Imagine if the world depended on what I knew. YIKES!

I am, or I should say, I want to be a learner, a grower, a teacher, a friend. I want to be a faithful servant. I want to be a better parent. I want to be a better Christian. I want to use this time to face my challenges and my fears. I want to use this time to remember what I once knew and learn from those who forget less often. I want to show my soul that I value her and therefore want to nurture her so that she may thrive as well.

I am so thankful that Lent isn’t over yet. I have a lot of things I want to accomplish in the next 40 plus days left. It really is such a short time for this little boot camp of ours.  Our sacred time outside of time.

So, I kindly and lovingly remind myself. “Suck in that gut, soldier, and stop your crying.  You’ve got work to do.”

May God grant us a season for reflection, growth and tears- but may they be tears of repentance and not self pity.

Prayer of St. Ephraim

This card is available in our Shop.

 

Training Photo By: Sgt. Benjamin E. Woodle

In Honor of Forgiveness

Psalm 130

From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplication.
If you, Lord, were to mark iniquities,
who, O Lord, shall stand?
For with you is forgiveness;
and because of your law, I stood by you, Lord.
My soul has stood by his word.
My soul has hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch, even until night,
let Israel hope in the Lord.
For with the Lord there is mercy,
and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Have you ever stayed up, waiting for the sun to fill the earth with light as it rises?  There’s a sense of excitement.  Hope.  Newness.
Forgiveness is like that sweet joy you feel when you see the light fill the sky and you know there is a new day waiting for you.
Forgive.  Ask for forgiveness.
Don’t sit in the dark any longer than you have to.

Today’s JAR

Once in a while a like to post a JAR   It’s “Just a Reminder” of something you probably already knew and forgot.  It’s rarely anything brilliant.  And it’s usually something your Orthodox Grandmother would have told you (if you had one.)

Today’s JAR

February 19 doesn’t start a 40 Day Diet. It starts the Lenten Season. Part of it means we follow the discipline of the Church in choosing what we eat. The other part is we use the time for self reflection, prayer, and repentance.

Many people say “What comes out is more important.”

There is no “More Important.” If you can’t control what goes in, how will you control what comes out…. We shouldn’t be Pharisees but we still need to follow the discipline of the fast to the best of our ability.

 

Remembering the Dead

Why does the Church like to remind us twice a year that we are all going to die?  It’s such a downer.

(Where’s the sarcasm font?)

In reality, I think it’s very important to be reminded that we are all going to die one day and that this life was meant to be temporary.  It helps us remember to stop sweating the small stuff, look at the big picture, forgive and repent.

For the procrastinator in all of us, the Church Calendar has two Saturdays named “Saturday of Souls” where we remember the dead: the Saturday before Meatfare Sunday and the Saturday before Pentecost… the beginning and end of the movable festal calendar.  The other Saturday of Souls services in the beginning of Lent are associated with the ascetics who didn’t have descendants to remember them in prayer and  St. Theodore concerning the Miracle of the Koliva*.

On these memorial Saturdays we offer boiled wheat, a.k.a. Koliva, and ask the priest and those present to pray for our departed family members and loved ones.  I have a friend who pays extra attention to pray for his loved ones and friends who didn’t have children (like the ascetics) and who will probably be forgotten through the generations to come.  As it is, each of us depending on the if we taught our children this sacred tradition or if our names are on a building or invention of some sort, will probably only be remembered for a short time after our death (in comparison to eternity.)

Holy and Great Lent is less than two weeks away and today we are preparing the ingredients for the first Saturday of Souls, February 10, 2018.  Do you prepare Koliva?   Do you offer a list of names of the dead?   How far back do you go?

I highly encourage you to learn how to make koliva.  If you need instructions or a recipe, you can go to an early post for koliva, or if you are a more visual learner, here’s a video.

May their memory be eternal.

Prayer Inside reads:
With the Saints give rest, O Christ,
to the soul of Your servant
where there is no pain,
nor any sorrow, nor any sighing,
…but Life everlasting.
From Orthodox Funeral Service
Item #: 10-002
  • In 361, Julian the Apostate was doing his utmost to restore pagan customs. Knowing that the Christians were accustomed to sanctify the first week of Lent by fasting and prayer, the wily tyrant told the Prefect of Constantinople to have all of the food set out for sale in the markets sprinkled with the blood of animals sacrificed to the gods, so that no one in the city would escape the contagion of idolatry. However, the Lord did not abandon His chosen people, but sent His servant Theodore to outwit the tyrant. Appearing in a vision to Patriarch Eudoxius (360-364), the holy Martyr informed him of what was happening and told him to instruct the Christians not to buy food from the markets but instead to eat kolyva made from grains of boiled wheat. Thus, thanks to the intervention of the holy Martyr Theodore, the Christian people were preserved from the stain of idolatry. The Church has commemorated this miracle ever since on the first Saturday of Great Lent, in order to remind the faithful that fasting and temperance have the power to cleanse all the stains of sin.

 

Where did the time go?

Wow!   Here I am, two weeks of December has passed and I can see how much I’ve neglected by blog.   This isn’t good.   It’s not like I don’t have anything to say or even anything to share.  I just lost track.  Does that happen to you?

So, here goes.  I am going to, stumbling if necessary, blog again.   I can’t promise anything fantastic, but I will work on the discipline of writing and hope to entertain you along the way.  There’s been a theme to discipline in my life lately.  Some things just require discipline and not dumb luck.   I’ve been satisfied with dumb luck and it’s not going to cut it anymore.

What will I be writing about?

I am leading a Women’s Book Club on the short instructional book, How to Live a Holy Life.  It’s a fantastic book.   We are taking our sweet time with it, maybe covering a page a session.  But we are all learning about ourselves and our relationship with God and each other.  To put it plainly, God appreciates our gratitude and acceptance of His will over our own. It sounds simple, but it isn’t always easy.

I am also preparing for a retreat in Norfolk, VA in February.  I’m going to extend a retreat I’ve already presented on sanctifying time.  Look for posts and updates as I finalize my preparations.

Oh, and add Christmas, the New Year, and for those in my area… Epiphany!

Yup.  My plate is full.

Looking forward to writing again.  Come back soon.

 

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.
AGES Digital Chant Stand
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!

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.

 

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!

Where Is Your Faith?

Today’s JAR just a reminder

2014_08_panagia-pousiotissa-058As I think about today’s reading and the woman who washed Jesus’ feet. He told her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

But to be clear, it wasn’t that she possessed “faith” that she was saved, but what her faith inspired her to do.

Her faith led her to take action. Her faith revealed a true relationship between her and Jesus. Her faith brought her to tears of repentance.

We have to relocate faith from our head and put it in our hands, feet, and heart.

This is how we truly experience God’s love. This is how we experience peace.