Great Lent

At least for those of us who are Eastern Orthodox. Catholics have been in it for three weeks already, I think. Last Sunday began Cheesefare week, which is, I think, designed to keep us from having anything equivalent to Mardi Gras right up to Forgiveness Sunday, when Lent officially begins. So we’re all trying to get ready for Lent, and are eating lots and lots of dairy products before the true fast starts. (it’s called cheesefare week because we can have all the dairy and eggs we want, but no meat, according church rules).

So I’ve been considering of late how to go about keeping the fast, since it’s not supposed to be only about fasting from foods. A friend of mine suggested on Saturday night that she felt convicted about having a lot of stuff, as most of us here in America do, and that she ought to give a lot of it up, at least for the time being, and wondered if I would want to do something similar. So I’ve been thinking about it on and off for the past couple days – I’ll give it a try, but I have a lot of stuff I’ll need as an arts and crafts teacher, and can’t just get rid of. Perhaps I should make a distinction between stuff that’s mine in the sense of being for my own personal comfort, and stuff that I need for other reasons (ink, drawing paper, charcoal, fabric, etc.). But I could certainly stand to lose some even of that – which will take quite some time, since it would be wasteful to just get rid of it – I’d better make quilts and hats and whatnot.

It is, for us, the first Tuesday of Great Lent, known as “clean Tusday.” In compliance with Jesus teaching thatwe not “disfigure our faces with mourning” – though mostly because it’s not Eastern tradition, we don’t celebrate Ash Wednesday, so “clean week” is mostly notable for people staring longingly at cheese enchiladas, and the Canon of St. ANdrew – an hour and a half each night of verses declaring our wanton sinfulness, interspersed with a hundred or so prostrations (bow to the ground). The favorite prayer, said (if circumstances allow) about five times a day, goed as follows:

O Lord and Master of my life,
take from me the spirit of wrath, despair,
lust for power, and idle talk. (prostration)

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility,
patience, and love to your servant. (prostration)

Yea, Lord and King: grant to me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed
unto the ages of ages. Amen. (prostration)

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