Category Archives: Lent

Lenten love and lettuces.

For the letter “L”, Lent is a natural choice of subject, considering the season we Orthodox are in. This year Pascha or “Greek Easter” is five weeks after Western Easter, so we are still in preparation. Everything that we experience or do is placed in the context of our efforts to draw close to Christ and to be ready for the glorious celebration of His Resurrection. If I don’t see that connection on my own, someone around me is sure to say, upon hearing that I’m sick, or my car broke down, or about any number of news items, failings or challenges, “Ah, well, it’s Lent!”P1030845(2)

Sloughing off the unnecessary, becoming more like Mary than Martha, letting go, focusing on the eternal things and soaking up the encouragement of our mother the Church through the heart-sustaining services of this period of the calendar — these are some of the things we try to work on.

When on April Fool’s Day my computer’s hard drive failed, I lost several months’ worth of data and many hours of work that I have to do over, including hundreds of photos and I don’t know what else, because somehow my backup program had also failed since December. My Computer Guy was more distressed than I was; I realized deep down that this loss was of nothing essential to my life. I said something like that to him, mentioning Lent, and he remarked lightly that my attitude inspired him to consider what sort of sacrifices he himself ought to be making. “Oh, no,” I wanted to say, “It’s not about making sacrifices!” But exactly what it is about, I wasn’t prepared to expound. I do know that I did not choose to give up a big chunk of visual and literary records.Christ washing feet of disciples

What Lent is about can be summed up in this prayer that we pray hundreds of times throughout the weeks and the services. It doesn’t say anything about sacrifice or even about food.

The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

 O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness,
lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility,
patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother;

for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

And though to be truthful, there is mention of sacrifice when we come together, it’s in the moving hymn we sing on our knees at one of the Lenten services:

Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense,
And the lifting up of my hands

As an evening sacrifice.

I happen to be reading a book that seems very Lenten in its mood and themes. This novel by Eugene Vodolazkin, Laurus, is filling my mind so much the last few weeks, I originally planned to dedicate the whole of “L” to it, even though I’m still in the middle of the book. It’s about the Middle Ages, a holy fool, and kairos. The main character demonstrates the kind of self-emptying that results in making space for God.Image result for laurus

His motivation for asceticism is love for someone for whom he wants to pray, and he does not want to be distracted by being too comfortable. Eventually he comes to feel out of touch with his body, almost insensible to its condition, and free. You might think that such a person would also be oblivious to the natural world around him, but Arseny seems to be more intimate with the creation and appreciative of its beauty than the average person. Perhaps the Holy Spirit allows him to see and interact with things more directly and clearly than we who only have our natural senses.gl lettuce IMG_2014

Speaking of Nature, I am trying to cooperate with her and grow some vegetables. On Friday I set out some little lettuces and also some kale and leeks. The lettuce is of two varieties of Romaine: Forellenschluss (which I probably bought for its name that is so fun to say) is the speckled kind on the left in the photo; it’s an heirloom variety from Austria. The plain green is a heat-resistant lettuce from Israel and is named Jericho.

That Lenten prayer is useful all through the day, and everywhere we go. I feel the spirit of love in regard to my garden, but I need the spirit of patience. I pray the Lord takes from me the lust of power, but I don’t expect it will happen as quickly as I lost all those digital photos.

Did you know that “the English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word len(c)ten, meaning ‘spring season'”? Whatever hemisphere we live in, we can with God’s help tend our hearts, and make this season the springtime of our soul. 

Rejuvenating Feast

In my reading through the Gospel of Mark I came yesterday to the account of the crucifixion of our Lord. I wasn’t thinking at the time of how it was the eve of the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, because I was soon on my way to yet another birthday party, this time to celebrate Laddie’s turning two.

Later, I thought about how appropriate it was that I contemplate Christ’s being forsaken by his Father, taking that cup of death and thereby conquering and destroying death, so that we can drink from the cup of joy, and have a feast. This is truly a spiritual feast, and not the kind where we delight in earthly food. And for that reason it’s set right here in the middle of the Lenten fast. The following is from our church bulletin.

ON THE CROSS:

As they who walk on a long and hard way and are bowed down by fatigue find great relief and strengthening under the cool shade of a  leafy tree, so do we find comfort, refreshment, and rejuvenation under the Life-giving Cross, which our Fathers “planted” on this Sunday.

Thus, we are fortified and enabled to continue our Lenten journey with a light step, rested and encouraged. Or, as before the arrival of the king, his royal standards, trophies, and emblems of victory come in procession and then the king himself appears in a triumphant parade, jubilant and rejoicing in his victory and filling those under him with joy, so does the Feast of the Cross precede the coming of our King, Jesus Christ. It warns us that He is about to proclaim His victory over death and appear to us in the glory of the Resurrection….

The present feast has been placed in the middle of Crucifixion wikimediaGreat Lent for another reason. The Fast can be likened to the spring of Marah whose waters the children of Israel encountered in the wilderness. This water was undrinkable due to its bitterness but became sweet when the Holy Prophet Moses dipped the wood into its depth. Likewise, the wood of the Cross sweetens the days of the Fast, which are bitter and often grievous because of our tears. Yet Christ comforts us…

Moreover, as the Holy Cross is called the Tree of Life, it is placed in the middle of the Fast, as the ancient tree of life was placed in the middle of the garden of Eden. By this, our Holy Fathers wished to remind us of Adam’s gluttony as well as the fact that through this Tree has condemnation been abolished. Therefore, if we bind ourselves to the Holy Cross, we shall never encounter death but shall inherit life eternal.

What to eat during Lent.

gl P1030688During the Vespers of Forgiveness last Sunday, the vestments were changed to purple. We began this season of the year — approximately a tithe? — that seems to convey the heart of Orthodoxy, because it calls us back to our First Love and to real Real Life. As someone reminded me this week, Normal Life is what Adam and Eve had in Paradise, when they walked and talked with God in the garden. It can take a lot of effort to put aside the usual cares and concerns for a season, and to do whatever is necessary to reach an awareness of our great need for Christ, and to receive His love and forgiveness, which is the healing of our souls.

My heart has been full-to-bursting, or to weeping, especially in the extra services that we have during Lent, and extra-extra during this first week. I’m learning more about kairos, that time that is timeless, and that gives us a taste of Heaven. This is my view when I look up. I can read, in the circle around the icon of the Savior, “He hath looked out from His holy height. The Lord from Heaven hath looked upon the earth to hear the groaning of them that be in fetters.”gl dome clean week

I’ve never been able to attend the services of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete as much as this year, and it has been the greatest blessing. On Thursday evening I arrived early enough to get a picture before the service began, and then another toward the end, during Great Compline. I wish you could hear the choir, who sang like angels.gl P1030689gl P1030693

Along with my heart, but in the chronos kind of time that won’t stop ! my to-do list is full-to-bursting as well. The garden is ready for me to plant some spring vegetables, and every day is a new scene out there. I’m behind as usual, and glad that the flowers and sprouts don’t wait for me, but they go on springing.  New miniature Dutch irises emerged in the pouring rain, because they didn’t want to be late in showing their own Lenten vestments.P1030674

Three of the children and their families are coming a various times in the next week, starting this very morning. I can’t wait to see the grandchildren, and I hope they can play in the garden without having to play in the rain.

I made about twelve quarts of satisfying soup yesterday, and next weekend I’ll be preparing an agape meal for 100 as a memorial to my husband. I’ve never done that kind of event before, and I’m glad I’ll have some helpers.gl soup 3-16

So there is much to ponder and write about, but not much time (chronos), it seems, for the writing part.

I will post some links from my files to a few Lenten recipes, at the bottom of the post, but first I want to share something that has been going around for a couple of weeks, but bears repeating, a message from Abbot Tryphon reminding us about the kind of feasting we can enjoy during Lent:

FAST from self-concern and FEAST on compassion for others.
FAST from discouragement and FEAST on hope.
FAST from lethargy and FEAST on enthusiasm.
FAST from suspicion and FEAST on truth.
FAST from thoughts that weaken and FEAST on promises that inspire.
FAST from shadows of sorrow and FEAST on the sunlight of serenity.
FAST from idle gossip and FEAST on purposeful silence.
FAST from problems that overwhelm you and FEAST on prayer that sustains.
FAST from criticism and FEAST on praise.
FAST from self-pity and FEAST on joy.
FAST from ill-temper and FEAST on peace.
FAST from resentment and FEAST on contentment.
FAST from jealousy and FEAST on love.
FAST from pride and FEAST on humility.
FAST from selfishness and FEAST on service.

Thank you, Father Tryphon! Now, as to earthly food, some recipes I have posted in the past that are suitable for Orthodox fasts are these:

Italian Flag Soup

Indian Chickpea and Spinach Stew

Vegetable Bean Soup

Turkish Green Beans

Korean Kale Salad

Yams Roasted with Coconut and Curry

Gingerbread Pear Bundt Cake

Pat-in Pie Crust

God bless you all, my Dear Readers. And to those of you who may be celebrating Western Easter soon, may you have much grace during Holy Week.

Why do we eat?

SOME REMARKS ON FASTING by Fr. Stephen Freeman:

…. I have seen greater good accomplished in souls through their failure in the fasting season than in the souls of those who “fasted well.” Publicans enter the kingdom of God before Pharisees pretty much every time.

Why do we fast? Perhaps the more germane question is “why do we eat?” Christ quoted Scripture to the evil one and said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We eat as though our life depended on it and it does not. We fast because our life depends on the word of God.

I worked for a couple of years as a hospice chaplain. During that time, daily sitting at the side of the beds of dying patients—I learned a little about how we die. It is a medical fact that many people become “anorexic” before death—that is —they cease to want food. Many times family and even doctors become concerned and force food on a patient who will not survive. Interestingly, it was found that patients who became anorexic had less pain than those who having become anorexic were forced to take food. (None of this is about the psychological anorexia that afflicts many of our youth. That is a tragedy)

It is as though at death our bodies have a wisdom we have lacked for most of our lives. It knows that what it needs is not food—but something deeper. The soul seeks and hungers for the living God. The body and its pain become a distraction. And thus in God’s mercy the distraction is reduced…Why do we fast? We fast so that we may live like a dying man, and in dying we can be born to eternal life.

Read the whole article here.