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Holy and Glorious Pascha Preparation - Great Lent and Great and Holy Week - Fasting Theology

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Cycle Preparing and Celebrating Preparing (Fasting, Praying, and Performing Charity) Fasting Praying Performing Charity Feasting (Celebrating)

Great Lent and Great and Holy Week are the time of preparation for celebrating Feast of Feasts Holy and Glorious Pascha.

Traditionally, Great Lent and Great and Holy Week are a time of increased fasting.

We prepare by fasting.

Fasting is an ancient form of spiritual discipline to intensify an awareness of Holy God. The idea of fasting is to bring us closer to Holy God, and to teach us self-control and dedication to Holy God.

The purpose of fasting is transformation. As such fasting should always be focused towards making life simpler not more complicated.

Fasting is a means of spiritual growth. In fasting, we realise that all nourishment comes from Holy God, and that we need spiritual food as well as material food.

Why Fasting in Great Lent and Great and Holy Week

The purpose of fasting during Great Lent and Great and Holy Week is transformation. Every Christian's eating habits should be remarkably different during this season.

Being hungry for food makes us aware that all food comes from Holy God, and makes us hungry for Holy God in our lives.
Additionally, changing what we eat and how much we eat reminds us that we need to change our lives in order to live in a more Christ-like way--getting rid of some things we do and choosing to do more or less of other things.

The idea of fasting is to gain self control, to get away from being creatures of habit, to get away from always "giving in" to our cravings, to simplify of life-style, to make a solidarity with the poor and hungry, and to return to Paradise.

As such fasting should always be focused towards making life simpler, not more complicated.

It is important to fast for the right reasons--because fasting helps us to break free of our dependence on material things; because fasting helps us to focus on the true Bread of Life, Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ; and because when we deprive ourselves a little we have more resources to help others.
By changing what we eat and how much we eat, we remind ourselves of the other changes we need to make in our lives to bring us closer to Holy God.

Prayer and Fasting

The article below was written by Rev. Fr. James Graham, Pastor of Saint Elias the Prophet Melkite Greek Catholic Mission, San Jose, CA. The article appeared in News from St Elias Church, August 1, 2002.

On the Sunday of THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE FIRST SIX ECUMENICAL COUNCILS, we read the passage from the Gospel of St Matthew about the healing of the demon-possessed boy (Matthew 17:14-23). Jesus tells His disciples that "this kind [of demon] can be cast out only by prayer and fasting." All of us have our own "demons" of one kind or another--anger, greed, gossip, neglect of our families, abuse of our bodies through drugs or alcohol or overeating or overwork, laziness, spiritual indifference, pride, vanity, disobedience, and so on. These things can be cast out by prayer and fasting, which bring us closer to God and strengthen our faith so that we can overcome our sinful habits. Of course, we cannot expect to be perfect immedi-ately, so we must not try a regime of prayer and fasting that is too strenuous. That will lead to failure, which will just reinforce the power of our "demons."

We should all set aside a time every day--for some it will be first thing in the morning, for some it might be just before going to bed--when we lift up our hearts to the Lord. We should acknowledge God's glory and power, God's great love and mercy. We should thank God for our blessings of life, health, fam-ily, friends, prosperity, etc. And we should ask God to take care of us in our needs and to take care of others who are sick or suffering or in need. But beyond that, we should pray at any time and at all times during the day--while walking the dog, or driving on the freeway, or shopping at the grocery store, while taking a coffee break or between classes or waiting in line, when mowing the lawn or cooking the supper or doing the laundry. Some people like to pray the Rosary. In our Byzantine tradition, the Jesus Prayer is more common, recited over and over again until in the back of our consciousness it begins "to pray itself". The Jesus Prayer is simple: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Fasting, too, should be simple. It is best not to make a big deal out of it. Sometimes, the more we try to focus on it, the harder it becomes. The traditional fast originated in the monasteries, where everyone ate the same thing (or fasted from the same thing!). In the modern world, it is almost impossible to keep that kind of fast in a simple way. It is better to choose some kind of fast that we can really maintain--such as not eating between meals and giving up meat at least on Wednesdays and Fridays. Although giving up meat entirely for two weeks is not terribly difficult. The idea of fasting is first of all to purify our bodies so that we can eliminate unnecessary things from our lives, and second of all to realize that all we have comes from God. We don't fast in order to suffer; we fast in order to understand God's place in our lives.

This period of preparation for the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God is a good time to work on prayer and fasting so that by stronger faith in God we can eliminate the "demons" from our lives.

Something to Think About-A Different Approach to Fasting

The article below was written by Rev. Fr. James Graham, Pastor of St. Elilas the Prophet Melkite Greek Catholic Mission, San Jose, CA. The article appeared in St Elias the Prophet Melkite Greek Catholic Mission, Sunday Bulletin, August 11, 2002.

Fasts are typically oriented toward things like giving up food or television. However, there are many other creative ways we can welcome the Lord's healing touch during the fasting periods of the Church year. For example:

  • Fast from anger and hatred. Give your family and friends an extra share of love each day.
  • Fast from judging others. Before making judgements, re-call how Jesus overlooks our faults.
  • Fast from discouragement. Hold on to God's promise that He has a perfect plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Fast from complaining. When you find yourself about to complain, close your eyes and recall the moments of joy Jesus has given you.
  • Fast from resentment or bitterness. Work on forgiving those who may have hurt you.
  • Fast from spending too much money. Try to reduce you spending by ten percent and give the savings to the poor.

Liturgical Fasting

Additional to food fasting, there is liturgical fasting with no Divine Liturgy on weekdays. The practice of Orthros (morning prayers) is emphasized.

Special services are offered on the various days of the week:

Great Lent is Forty Days

Great Lent is Forty Days.   The 40-day count begins begins at the beginning of the Vespers of Clean Monday on the evening of the Sunday of Cheesefare/Forgiveness and ends just before the Vespers of Lazarus Saturday on the evening of the last Friday in Great Lent. Sundays do count.

Traditions

Traditions of Great Lent and Holy Week Melkite Greek Catholic Church Eparchy of Newton

More Information

CyberTypicon by Reverend Father / Abouna Peter Boutros
CyberTypicon lists Fast and Abstinence days.

"CyberTypicon" Definitions by Reverend Father / Abouna Peter Boutros
CyberTypicon has the Fasting and Abstinence rules. Please click on Fast and Abstinence.

Traditions of Great Lent and Holy Week Please click on Fast and Abstinence, Reasons why. Melkite Greek Catholic Church Eparchy of Newton Material prepared by Fr. Philaret Littlefield for inclusion in the St. George Melkite (Byzantine) Greek Catholic Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States Sunday Bulletin

Abouna, Why do We Fast? by Fr. Philaret D. Littlefield, Reprinted from Sophia, Volume 31, Number 1, Jan. - Feb. 2001, Melkite Greek Catholic Church Eparchy of Newton

Saint Ignatios of Antioch Melkite Greek Catholic Church Then click on Resources. The first category is Lenten Information.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Lent But Were Afraid to Ask St. George Melkite-Greek Catholic Church, Sacramento, CA


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Martha Liles
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Melkite Greek Catholic Church Information Center is dedicated to my cousins: Bucky (Richard C. Liles) and Shirley (Shirley Jean Liles Buck). Bucky fell asleep in the Lord on Dec. 12, 2000 and Shirley fell asleep in the Lord on Nov. 8, 2001.
O God of all spirits and of all flesh, who have destroyed death, overcome the devil, and given life to the world: grant, O Lord, to the souls of your servants Bucky and Shirley, who has departed from this life, that it may rest in a place of light, in a place of happiness, in a place of peace, where there is no pain, no grief, no sighing. And since You are a gracious God and the Lover of Mankind, forgive him/her every sin he/she has committed by thought, or word, or deed, for there is not a man who lives and does not sin : You alone are without sin, your righteousness is everlasting, and your word is true. You are the Resurrection and the Life, and the repose of your departed servants Bucky and Shirley. O Christ our God, and we send up glory to You, together with your eternal Father and your all-holy, good and life-givng Spirit, now and always and for ages upon ages. Amen.

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