Something to “give up” for Great Lent.

 When I was a boy, the great emphasis on Great Lent (Roman Catholic style) was to "give up" something. They have no common concept of fasting during Great Lent as the Orthodox do, so everybody picked something to give up. Ridiculous things were given up, like "candy" or "coffee", or even smoking. Unfortunately, this approach has even infiltrated some Orthodox people, who are ignorant about fasting. There are multiple problems with this ad-hoc approach, and we have a much better ways, tried and true, and our tradition for two millennia.


However, in conjunction with following the fast as strictly as we can (and with the knowledge and guidance of our confessor – we DO NOT do this on our own), it is excellent and necessary to attempt to "give up" things and also to "give" things (that is, focus on or start doing something with more zeal)

 I recently sent the words of St John Chrysostom about fasting to this blog. It contains an excellent list of things to put fasting in perspective::


If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him!

If thou seest in enemy, be reconciled to him!

If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not!

If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!


For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice.

Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles.

Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties.


Today’s reading (Friday of Cheesefare week) from Zechariah also provides and excellent list of what we should "give up", and "give":


"These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: 17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD. (Zechariah 8:16-17)


Lent is about moral amendment – we must be changing. Fasting, and extra effort in spiritual things will facilitate this goal – this can only be understood if it is experienced.


It is excellent to have reachable, tangible goals during Great Lent, such as, for example:

·       I will go to vigil during Great Lent.

·       I will follow the fast.

·       I will read scripture every day.

·       I will read the “Ladder” or some other spiritual book.

·       I will visit the sick once a week.

·       I will pray for everyone in the parish by name every day.

·       I will not watch television.

·       I will do something that I am supposed to do anyway with more attention and care.

·       Etc.


Goals are wonderful, and very necessary. They help put the (shall we say?) “meat” into our actions. I advise all of you to have some tangible goals, and discuss then with me, but the major goals of Lent are the intangible ones, which today’s reading summarizes well.









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