Here it is again, looming over us like a giant behemoth. Great Lent. Every year I see memes and cartoons about Lent sneaking up on us almost as if to intentionally spoil our joy. And to be honest, some days it does feel like that. But the longer I am Orthodox, the more I appreciate what Lent both teaches us and allows us to do, namely take the focus off of self.
As much as I appreciate Lent, I do find myself filled with anxiety. What will I eat? Will my son participate with me now that he’s a teenager? How do I manage alms giving on a fixed budget with little to no wiggle room? And what if, God forbid, I slip up and accidentally eat the wrong thing on the wrong day? So much for taking the focus of of self.
This year, though, I hope to do it differently. Rather than asking whether something is okay to eat during Lent, I want to begin asking which charities are best for alms giving. I want to ask how I can give on a tight fixed budget. I want to learn creative ways to give alms and give them freely, unselfishly.
I want to spend time focusing on God more than on what I am doing correctly or incorrectly. I want to take my eyes off my plate and everyone else’s plate, and put them where they belong, firmly fixed on Christ. Too often that focus is lost during Lent, and by the time Pascha arrives, I am worn out from the details, and I realize I haven’t spent time with God. Pascha is still joyous, but not as much as I think it could be.
I said that I want to focus on alms giving and prayer more than dietary restrictions. I hope you can help me with that. How can I practice alms giving on a tight to fixed budget? What are your favorite prayers and devotions during Lent? What are the best charities to give to?
On that last one, maybe I can help a little. It is said that charity begins at home. Maybe your parish single parents would be a good place to start. Find out their needs. Pray for them and with them if you cannot assist. Most of all, let us help each other to focus more on God and loving each other. Will you help me?