Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Two Seasons; One Fast

Today is day 37 of Great Lent which means Friday is the final day of Great Lent. But that does NOT mean the fast is over. Situated comfortably between Great Lent and Holy Week which begins on Monday, are two feasts. The Feast of the Raising of Lazarus and Palm Sunday form a buffer between Great Lent and Holy Week. They are days during which we still fast, but as with other Saturdays and Sundays of the Great Fast, the fast is “lessened”. WE EVEN EAT FISH for Palm Sunday. I’ll say more about those days when they arrive.

So why the difference? Why not call the entire time Great Lent? In common practice we actually do lump them together for calendar purposes, but in reality they are completely different seasons. One noticeable difference will be the Scripture readings for each day. We will no longer be reading from Isaiah, Genesis and Proverbs and will again read from the Holy Gospels. Another difference will be the fasting regiment. For those who are not able to keep the entire Great Fast, we are encouraged to keep Holy Week (just like the first week of Great Lent) with extra strictness as we prepare for Pascha.

By now some who have been more or less successful with the fast may even be a bit saddened that it is coming to an end. Others are worried they won’t be able to focus an entire other week. There are others who haven’t started yet. But as Saint Paul says, “For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.” (Romans 14.2-3)

For those who are able and desire to fast, don’t focus on the end of Great Lent, since it will come soon enough. Focus on being a living sacrifice to God as Saint Paul said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12.1) Look at the coming days as your chance to make an offering to God. I’ll talk more about Holy Week next week. Until then....keep the fast.....keep praying.....and help the poor.

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