Great Lent: A spiritual preparation for accepting the Resurrection at Easter
Greeks are getting ready for the greatest feast of the Orthodox Church.
Photos: A. Christofilopoulos / FOS PHOTOS
As we enter the Holy Week, Greek Orthodox Christians, whether they live in Greece or abroad, prepare to not only commemorate, but to enter into the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.
According to the Greek Orthodox faith, Lent, the 40 days preceding the Christian Orthodox Easter, is not for the sake of Lent itself, as fasting is not for the sake of fasting. Rather, these are means by which and for which the believers prepares themselves to reach for, accept and attain the calling of their Savior. Therefore, the significance of Great Lent is highly appraised, not only by the monks who gradually increased the length of time of the Lent, but also by the lay people themselves.
The Orthodox Lenten rules are the monastic rules. These rules exist not as a Pharisaic law, but as an ideal to be striven for; not as an end in themselves, but as a means to the purification of heart, the enlightening of mind, the liberation of soul and body from sin, and the spiritual perfection crowned in the virtue of love towards God and man.
The rules are pretty simple. No animal products with the exception of animals such as octopus and squid, as many believe that these mollusks do not have blood. In fact, their blood is blue rather than red, due to the hemocyanin.
Fasting isn’t kept in absolute terms by all people in Greece; it never was. Fasting for Easter (and Christmas, which involves a 40-day fast in the Christian Orthodox calendar) was a useful way to help people ration food during periods of food shortages. The rule was created by a religious authority, which used to exert a greater amount of power over people’s subconscious in the past. What started off as a rule for the purposes of food management is seen in a different light in modern times: fasting is good for you because it helps you to maintain a nutritional balance. This is the modern meaning of fasting, a form of detox.
So what is allowed during a Greek fast?
Allowed: Beans, vegetables, bread, fruit, honey, rice, pasta (no egg noodles), cereals, octopus, squid, olive oil, and basically anything that does not contain animal products.
Not Allowed: Meat and meat products (includes beef, pork, chicken, as well as items which have beef gelatin), lard, dairy products (includes butter, eggs, milk, cheese, etc., as well as items containing dairy whey, milk extracts), fish.
What is not so simple is to understand
Fasting is not about what you eat, it’s more about coming closer to ourselves, its a process which can get you closer to God. For an orthodox monk, this is his lifetime project, and such a “diet” is just designed to assist him during this process.
That’s why it is more important to focus on the spiritual aspect of fasting rather then on what to eat.
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