Today is the second day of the Great Fast, and many are tempted already to search for that perfect gimmick that will make the Great Lenten Journey fun “fun for the whole family”. This might especially be true for those new Orthodox families who remember events such as “funny hats Sunday” or “wear blue days” during which days the pastor might even pass out rewards for the best hat. It is most definitely true for life-long Orthodox families that have never taken the Great Lenten Journey seriously, as they search for more than just the “do what the Church says” advice from the priest. Already many are thinking, “there has just GOT to be a way to make Great Lent fun for my family, otherwise they will NEVER participate.”
Orthodoxy has its share of gimmicks, don’t get me wrong. The most popular that I have seen is Kyria Saraskosti (Mrs Lent), the popular doll-like figure with seven feet. Each week you are supposed to remove one foot until finally you have reached Great and Holy Pascha. Some families will even make them as cookies, using lenten recipes of course, so you can break off a foot each week and eat it. I’m sure there are other methods of counting down until Great and Holy Pascha, but if you are consumed (and only you would know if you are) with the idea that you need something to make Great Lent fun, then you may have just passed the line. These are all just gimmicks afterall, and if you never learn from a young age to engage spiritually in the Great Lenten Journey, you will never be at peace with the idea of “just do what the Church says” and pray more, fast more, serve the poor more, attend Church services more, and go for Holy Confession.
This is one reason for our annual Daily Lenten Journey posts from Be Transfigured Ministries. It is the main reason really. We have found that many, whether life-long Orthodox or newly baptized or Chrismated Orthodox, our contemporary Church has struggled with actually engaging our faith seriously without the gimmicks. Gimmicks don’t have staying power. You eventually run out of silly hats and blue shirts. Eventually, you just have to want to be in Church, and Great Lent is just the perfect opportunity for you to rededicate yourself to the faith of the ancient Church.
We’ll talk about this more over the next weeks. Have a blessed Great Lenten Journey.