The Great Fast

The Orthodox Church has kept the Old Testament custom of reckoning each day from sunset, so the first service of each day is Vespers on what we see as the previous evening. This year, the Great Fast begins with Vespers for Monday, March 13th, which is served on the evening of the Sunday of Forgiveness.

This time of preparation for the Feast of Feasts, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, is usually greeted with a mixture of great joy and great sorrow: Jesus Christ will/has smashed the gates of hell to free us from eternal death, but it is/was our disobedience and sin that made His Sacrifice necessary! We also lament because preparation for the feast is a struggle! Preparation requires effort!

The Church — following the instructions of our Lord, as recorded in Matthew 6:1–7:12 — teaches us to give alms, increase our efforts in prayer, fast, trust in God, and check our judgment of others to prepare for Pascha. These are not things we humans embrace joyfully, at first.

This issue of OFL features basic, practical advice on ‘slowing down’ to make time for prayer, fasting with a busy family, and teaching stewardship to children. Older teens and adults may also enjoy reading one of these wonderful books about the Lenten journey:

Great Lent by Fr. Alexander Schmemann (New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974).
The Lenten Spring by Fr. Thomas Hopko (New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1983). X

by Nichola Toda Krause

© 2000 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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