Guidelines for the Observance of Lent
Fr. John E. Artemas
This article originally appeared in the March 2000 edition of the Orthodox Observer
Lent is not for everybody. It is only for faithful Christians who are already doing their best to live a disciplined and Christ-centered life. During Lent, the faithful have the opportunity to practice more intensively those virtues and spiritual exercises which they regularly practice throughout the year.
What are some of those virtues and practices?
During Lent, the faithful are encouraged to attend various special services in addition to regular Sunday worship.
Personal and private prayer at home remains the same, but there is much more prayer through the special Lenten services.
What is our regular practice of fasting? How much more can we and do we choose to fast during Lent? How do we understand fasting?
In what ways do we now contribute to charity? Are we wise and faithful in how we spend our money? Do we adequately support the needs and ministries of our Church? How is it true that "charity begins at home?" How we spend our money says so much about our values (or lack of values) and our true priorities in life.
So many "faithful Christians" are seriously under-nourished, if not starving, because they do not adequately feed their souls. What we eat and drink can give us life and health, or it can poison and kill us. In addition to worship and prayer, we need to turn off the TV - make time - study more, especially during Lent.
Repentance and Confession
As often as necessary, we should repent of our sins, return to God in confession, and thus be restored in the grace and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Lent is an excellent special opportunity to take time, evaluate our moral and spiritual condition, and follow this up with a confession with our Spiritual Father. This will greatly contribute to our spiritual health and stability.
This includes all of the above and much more. Our many daily obligations are also "good works": doing our jobs conscientiously; taking care of our homes and families; resisting temptations of every form; being faithful to our spouses; guiding our children in the Chritsian way; being kind to one another, etc. etc. During Lent, and always, let us remember to "reach out and touch someone" with the "healing love of Jesus."
Whether you are focusing on Lent or any other special time of the year, don't lose sight of "the whole picture." Your entire life belongs to God. All of your time, your money, your energy, your body, your soul, your desires, your plans, your everything, should be "in Christ." Only in Him can you be saved, healed, sanctified, and glorified.
Learn more about the basics of fasting and prayer with this playlist of short videos. You'll find 16 episodes of "Be the Bee" that will help you make the most of Great Lent and Holy Week!
Journey Through Holy Week
Follow Christ and the Church through each stage of Holy Week - from the Saturday of Lazarus to the Agape Vespers service with this full-color guide. Download the Children's Guide » and the Parent's Guide »
The Center for Family Care offers two video panel discussions focusing on the practicalities of keeping your family engaged throughout Holy Week.