Great Lent is almost upon us. This year it begins on Feb 12 (Feb 19 Old Calendar). During this time we are encouraged to take forty days to prepare ourselves, and our families, so as to be spiritually ready, and worthy to celebrate and worship the Resurrection–April 1 (April 8 Old Calendar). We are encouraged to fast, to pray more and practice intentional charity. Here are some resources and suggestions which can help guide us in our journey.
Strive to Increase Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving:
- Almsgiving, along with prayer and fasting make up the three-legged stool, which holds us up in our Lenten journey. These three when practiced together help to open our hearts to the Lord, so we may be touched by divine grace.
- It is a beautiful and encouraged practice to set aside the money we save from fasting during Great Lent. The money saved by not going out for lunch or supper, eating simpler and less each day can be set aside and at the end of the journey can be donated to the hungry or those in need.
- You can also increase your giving at your parish either in general or for a special project.
- Strive not to bargains with yourself on how to keep Great Lent, but at the same time speak with your spouse, children and parish priest about your expectations and decide as a family what you will do.
- Make your Lenten practice a sacrifice, an offering to God, by giving yourself time to pray and to listen for Him. Give yourself a few minutes to read the Holy Scriptures and contemplate the coming day before setting off to work and school.
- Read the lives of the saints, the Psalter (psalms), or a book on prayer. There is some suggested Lenten reading material down below.
Attend as Many of the Liturgical Services as Possible:
- Get the calendar of your local parish and plan to attend the services as a family.
- Start your Lenten journey on the right foot with forgiveness. Some parishes will offer Forgiveness Vespers, on the evening of Cheesefare Sunday, or will attach the forgiveness service to the end of the Sunday Divine Liturgy. It is a good practice to call family, friends and those who we may have offended and ask forgiveness.
- Attend the Canon of St. Andrew during clean week. It is a beautiful service focused on moving us to repentance and it involves our whole body.
- Normally the Divine Liturgy is not served during weekdays of Great Lent, so the Church offers the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts. It offers us an opportunity to be strengthened and nourished by the Holy Eucharist as we travel through our Lenten journey.
- If your parish offers Vespers on Saturday evening try to make an effort to attend and bring your children as well.
Make a Good Confession:
- Take time to thoroughly examine your heart and soul. Here is a helpful guide as we face our conscience:
- If possible, turn off the television for all of Great Lent. If you can’t do that, keep it off during the weekdays. Or limit yourself to watching a family movie together on Sunday afternoon with the kids.
- Set a limit on the amount of time you will spend in front of a screen and the internet each day outside of work—this includes smartphones also. If you feel that you are a slave to your phone set a limit on how many times a day you will check it.
- Take a break from Facebook. It can be a useful communication tool, but can also quickly become a time waster.
- Turn off the radio in the car during your commute and enjoy the quiet and say the Jesus Prayer.
- Renew or start a new hobby. Hobbies or crafts can help us feel inspired, keep our hands busy and give us an opportunity for a break.
- Set aside time solely for family time:
- Eat dinner together.
- Attend church services together.
- Play board games together.
- Sit together and read out loud the Holy Scripture and other edifying books.
Suggested Readings for Great Lent:
- The Holy Bible: If you can only read one book during Great Lent it should be the Holy Scriptures. Follow the Church calendar for the daily readings.
- The Lenten Triodion: This book gives all the changeable parts for every prayer service in Great Lent. It is filled with wonderful prayers and meditations.
- Daily Synaxarion Readings. Get to know the saints by reading their life story. The Melkite Eastern Catholic Church offers a short daily life of the saints at: www.rongolini.com/synaxariontoc.htm
- Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann: A deep reflection on the meaning and purpose of Great Lent. Worth reading often to remind us about the purpose of Lent.
- On Repentance and Almsgiving & On Living Simply by St John Chrysostom (347-407). St John has much to say to us about family life, marriage, and how we as Christians are to conduct our selves. His teaching is timeless and relevant even in the 21st century. Both books are a worthy read during Great Lent.
- Beginning to Pray & Living Prayer, by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. These little books on prayer have helped many Christians move from “saying prayers” to actually praying.
- PDF – Sunday Readings and Activities for Families During Lent: This is a small little reminder of the weekly themes of the Pre-Lenten and Lenten Sundays. It includes little suggestions on how to put these themes into practice.
- PDF – Great Lent at Home (Family Activity Book): This activity book gives beautiful short daily Lenten reflections for individuals and families alike.
- PDF – Vegetable Soup Recipe: A basic soup recipe for strict fasting days.
Eastern Hospitality: Food & Faith Throughout the Church Year!
This is an Easter Catholic online cooking show hosted by Fr. Moses and Mother Gabriella. It follows the Traditional cycle of the Liturgical Year which takes us through periods of preparation (fasting) and celebrating (feasting). New episodes will be released this coming Great Lent.