Why should we keep the Lenten Fast?
Fasting is clearly not optional, as Christ said, regarding fasting, “When you fast…” (Matt. 6:16), rather than “if you fast…”. The Lord, when speaking of His disciples, said that when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, they shall fast. When His disciples reported to Him that they had been unable to cast out a demon, the Lord explained to them that this kind of demon could not be moved without prayer and fasting.
The Apostolic Fathers clearly made it known that fasting was an important part of our Christian living, even linking prayer and fasting as part of Christian marriage. The Church has even established fasting periods that actually total up to about half of the year, averaging about 180 days, when added together.
All of the major feasts of the Church are preceded by periods of fasting, with the Nativity Fast coming before our celebration of the Nativity of Christ, the Apostles Fast coming before the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and the Dormition Fast preceding the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. And, of course, the Wednesday and Friday fasts, which require that we abstain from all meat, dairy, and fish. Additionally, the first three days of the Lenten Fast, referred to as Clean Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, ask that we abstain from any cooked foods, limiting our intake to raw vegetables.
Additionally, we have individual special fast days connected with feasts, such as the Eve of Theophany, the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, and the Elevation of the Holy Cross. But perhaps the most important fast of them all, is the Great and Holy Lenten Fast, in which we abstain from all meat, dairy, and fish, as we prepare our hearts and souls for the celebration of Holy Pascha (the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead).
Not only are these fast periods occasions for spiritual discipline, they are also very healthy for our bodies, as nutritionists teach us. These fast periods help us reduce reduce weight, keep our cholesterol levels down, and ultimately help us live longer.
Everyone should avoid meat and dairy products, two days per week, in order to help reduce animal fats, and related cholesterol, under control. Contemporary physicians are making no great discovery when they suggest such fasting periods, since the Church has known the importance of fasting for thousands of years.
The original commandment that God gave to our ancestors Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was a fasting commandment: eat of the fruit of all the trees but this one. If the fall of mankind and the loss of paradise were the result of breaking a fasting commandment, we should probably not ignore the fasts.
May this Great and Holy Lenten fast be to all of us a great blessing, and may our Lenten journey into the heart of God be one of sorrowful joy, where we experience the true meaning of what it means to be One Body in Christ Jesus.
With love in Christ,
Monday March 2, 2020 / February 18, 2020
Beginning of the Great Lent. Tone four.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter – Full abstention from food
St. Leo the Great, pope of Rome (461).
New Hieromartyrs Alexander (Medvedsky) (1932) priest and Benjamin hieromonk (1938).
Commemoration of the New Martyrs who suffered during the “Holy Night” in St. Petersburg (1932).
New Hieromartyr Vladimir priest (1933).
Virgin-martyr Anna (1940).
Venerable Cosmas, monk, of Yakhromsk (1492).
St. Agapitus, bishop of Synnada in Phrygia (4th c.).
St. Flavian the Confessor, patriarch of Constantinople (449).
Martyrs Victor, Dorotheus, Theodulus, and Agrippa, who suffered under Licinius (4th c.).
St. Colman, bishop of Lindisfarne (676) (Celtic & British).
Martyrs Leo and Parigorius of Patara of Lycia (258) (Greek).
St. Blaise, monk of Mt. Athos (9th c.).
Finding of relics (1961) of New Martyr Irene of Lesbos (1463).
St. Nicholas The Catholicos of Georgia (1591) (Georgia).
The Scripture Readings
Judah Called to Repentance
1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
The Wickedness of Judah
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I have nourished and brought up children,
And they have rebelled against Me;
3 The ox knows its owner
And the donkey its master’s crib;
But Israel does not know,
My people do not consider.”
4 Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the Lord,
They have provoked to anger
The Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away backward.
5 Why should you be stricken again?
You will revolt more and more.
The whole head is sick,
And the whole heart faints.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head,
There is no soundness in it,
But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores;
They have not been closed or bound up,
Or soothed with ointment.
7 Your country is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire;
Strangers devour your land in your presence;
And it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
8 So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard,
As a hut in a garden of cucumbers,
As a besieged city.
9 Unless the Lord of hosts
Had left to us a very small remnant,
We would have become like Sodom,
We would have been made like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the law of our God,
You people of Gomorrah:
11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle.
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
Or of lambs or goats.
12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who has required this from your hand,
To trample My courts?
13 Bring no more futile sacrifices;
Incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts
My soul hates;
They are a trouble to Me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
The History of Creation
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.
The Beginning of Knowledge
1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
3 To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
4 To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Shun Evil Counsel
8 My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;
9 For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
14 Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
16 For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
17 Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;
18 But they lie in wait for their own blood,
They lurk secretly for their own lives.
19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners.
The Call of Wisdom
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
YOU CAN HELP PREVENT THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 (Coronavirus) AND INFLUENZA
Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public (grocery carts are especially bad) and before and after touching elevator buttons, railings, and door handles.
Cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve or your elbow, not your hand. A contagious sneeze can travel up to 200 feet!
Avoid touching your face.
Avoid public gatherings and crowds.
Face masks are not helpful unless you have a productive cough and sneezing, and only the
N-95 masks are preventive against COVID-19.
Wipe down all surfaces at home and work (phone/computer/TV wand/counters/etc)
If you have persistent fever, cough, or respiratory distress, contact your health care provider!