Have you heard our Getting Ready for Great Lent promo on Ancient Faith Radio? If you don’t live stream the station, but prefer to just download podcasts one at a time, you might miss it, so I thought I’d post it here —
Now’s the time to be thinking about this… have you planned out a way to intensify your spiritual life in each of these important ways?
Consider your current family prayer routine, and think about ways to intensify it during this period. If your family is ready for it, you might increase the number of prayers you’re doing together. In particular, many families will add the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem to their family prayers. It’s a great favorite, because it reminds us so clearly of the passions we are hoping to control and of the virtues we are hoping to grow during this season of spiritual effort. You’ll see this prayer in church as well, and you’ll want to note how the prostrations are done — most kids really love adding a nice round of prostrations to the family prayers during Great Lent!
Great Lent is a time to intensify our service to the community around us. Traditionally, the Orthodox will try to put aside money saved from avoiding expensive meat and dairy products and give that to the Church or to a charitable organization. In families, it’s especially nice to perform some concrete services. After all, mom and dad’s finances aren’t always very palpable to the kids, but volunteering time to sit and do crafts with the residents of a nursing home is a hands on experience of spreading Christ’s love.
Now is the time to look at our calendars and see what we can move so that we’ll be free to attend more services during Great Lent. I find that putting my church’s services on my own family calendar helps to remind me to make room for them in planning.
If you don’t already have a good handle on setting up a Lenten pantry, or if you need more recipes that are truly family-friendly and nutritious, do check out my friend Melissa Naasko’s book, Fasting as a Family. It’s a great resource, and it’s improved my own family’s Lenten experience. Without a few really solidly nourishing recipes that the whole family will eat, it’s very hard to maintain momentum during the long fast.
The Church teaches us to be very intentional about preparation — not only do we prepare for the Resurrection with a good, long Lenten period, we actually prepare ourselves to prepare for the fast!
Just this week, we entered into the period of preparation for the period of preparation for Pascha. On Sunday we read the Publican and the Pharisee in our Orthodox churches — the Church in her wisdom takes us off the usual cycle of readings, and presents us with opportunities to prepare our hearts for the Great Fast:
The Publican and the Pharisee, on the importance of humility
The Prodigal Son, on repentance and God’s mercy
The Last Judgement, on our personal responsibility to show love in real and palpable ways in this world.
Forgiveness Sunday, our final preparation for Lent is to ask and to grant forgiveness from the people in our communities, as we all work out our salvation together.
On each of these weeks, be sure to talk with your children about these readings and about your priest’s sermons on them. Explore with them why the Church is offering this lesson in particular right before Great Lent, so that your whole family is benefitting from this preparation before the preparation.
In addition to a shift in the Scripture readings, there is a shift in the fasting discipline. The Church moves us off the usual Wednesday & Friday regular fasting, and for one week we are fast-free, relaxing our discipline and clearing out our pantries. After this will come a week of regular fasting (Wednesday & Friday), followed by a week of eating no meat, but eating fish and dairy products. Finally, after this slow introduction into the fast, we will fully enter the fast on Clean Monday.
The Church doesn’t just throw us into the fast, but slowly and methodically prepares us.
Let’s embrace the preparation… so that we can embrace the preparation… and enter more fully into a glorious Pascha.