From March 15 to May 1, the Orthodox have Great Lent. There is a joke in the Church: if a “righteous man” is wound up in the house for Great Lent, the rest of the family will become martyrs. But why can friendly people turn into Cerberus during fasting? Should you be guided by the “Menu for every day of Great Lent” that hangs on the Internet? And what about the internet itself? Why leave social networks, or at least not participate there in clarifying the truth? Why is entertainment a taboo? What about sex? And what to do with your husband if you are fasting and he demands meat and love? Let’s figure it out.
By abstaining from meat, do not eat people
Lent, like any other, is divided into bodily fasting and spiritual fasting. Body fasting – “when the womb is fasting from food and drink.” Soulful – when the soul refrains from evil thoughts, deeds, words. These two posts are linked. A bodily fast without a spiritual fast is nothing, a diet. While fasting in body, it is important to fast in soul as well. Abstaining from meat, “do not bite those like you, do not eat people”; without touching animal food, “do not reach out your hands on someone else’s, do not bury yourself on something that is not yours”; refraining from delicacies, “refrain from slander, slander, condemnation”; pacifying your appetite, do not incite anger, anger, and abuse within yourself, St. Tikhon of Zadonsk taught.
Everyone who has tried knows: it is not easy, especially during Lent, when something seems to be tempting you to either eat a piece of sausage or condemn the one who still eats it. Sometimes it seems that you were simply replaced, that you have become not better, but worse. Why is this so?
Behind a veil of flesh
Fasting is a powerful tool, and when it turns into an end in itself, when they begin to hold it out of vanity, fasting becomes an instrument of suicide for the ascetic, St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) warned. But why?
With any bodily abstinence, our body – the “veil of our flesh” that separates us from the invisible world, becomes thinner, we become more receptive to spiritual influences. The saints warn that such heightened sensitivity to the spirit world can become harmful and even dangerous if it exists on its own. If the body is thinned by fasting, and the heart is not cleansed by confession, is not turned to the Lord in prayer, if we do not participate in the Sacrament of Communion, are not immersed in the prayerful mood of divine services, then when we come into contact with this spiritual world we find ourselves unprotected before the dark forces … That is, fasting is impossible without the help of the Grace of Christ. So, we need to start with a conversation with the priest: “Father, what restrictions will you bless?” – in food, in marriage, in prayer: everyone has their own measure, and we must take it according to their strength.
Without abstaining from evil thoughts, deeds and words, fasting is not fasting, but a diet.
And here is the fundamental point. It is important to understand why we are entering Lent? There is a demotivator on the Web: “Christ did not suffer so that I would not eat sausages.” Yes, not for that. Once, two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, sinless and immortal by his divine nature, voluntarily and out of love for people made his way towards us. Having passed the road to Calvary, having passed the Suffering of the Cross, Crucifixion, Death. Today it is our turn to begin the path towards Christ. Nobody demands to sacrifice life, health. Give up small things: some food product, some kind of entertainment! Let’s be honest, even such sacrifices are difficult for us. Fasting, a voluntary renunciation of what is meaningful to us, is our sacrifice, a voluntary sacrifice to God. Moreover, this sacrifice must be made out of love. And if the last phrase seems pretentious to you, let’s remember how natural it is for a mother to give the last piece of bread to a child – an act of effective love. God does not need our piece of bread, let alone sausage. But He needs our love. Blessed Augustine put into the mouth of God the following appeal of the Lord to man: “I, who created you without you, cannot save you without you.” That is, God loves a person, wants his salvation, but the person himself …
The prayer of repentance of Saint Ephraim the Syrian (IV century) during Great Lent is read both in churches and always at home. Photo: wikipedia.ru
“A full belly is deaf to the Lord,” the people repeated. “… their God is the womb,” said the Apostle Paul, and I think everyone is familiar with how worries and concerns about the earthly, bodily not only carry us away, distracting us from God, but often distort the true picture of the world. It begins to seem to us that we ourselves are the creators of everything, the kings of nature. Fasting is the restoration of the true hierarchy of the universe, when we clearly realize our smallness and dependence on the Creator. And we realize this not in a situation of death, illness, or any other catastrophe – here everyone instantly remembers Who actually holds everything in His Hand. Fasting is a kind of micro-catastrophe that a person goes to himself, voluntarily, giving up what most often not only brightens up ordinary life, but also constitutes its essence – the needs of the body. As the seminarians joke, I’d rather hasten to God myself than sorrow, sickness, and grief will bring me to Him.
And now, making such a turn from our bodily, we return to God. That is, fasting is the revitalization of a person’s relationship with God. And this relationship begins with repentance. Therefore, Great Lent cannot be passed, rarely visiting church. Or skipping the home prayer rule, which in Great Lent necessarily includes the prayer of repentance of Ephraim the Syrian. And here is the paradox: on the one hand, Lent is “sad days,” as Pushkin said, a time of repentance. On the other hand, the saints talk about the joy of fasting. What’s the matter here? Great Lent has two wings: prayer and good deeds that help to go this long way. Giving joy on the way. And the point here is not just the joy of overcoming oneself, here is a different joy – the joy of the Meeting.
Without coquetry, but with love
And yet, what do we not eat during Great Lent? The highest level of restriction is the monastery charter, when vegetable food without oil is recommended for most of the week. In order not to lead anyone into temptation, I will not even begin to paint this charter. You should not fast like this: you will inevitably break loose and tear yourself up. Fasting should be reasonable. The limit of self-restriction in food is set taking into account gender, age, health, physical and mental stress. Laymen, that is, not monks or priests, determine the severity of fasting, consulting with a priest and relying on common sense. The most common type of food restriction for laymen is the rejection of meat and dairy foods, and alcohol. Scientists believe that such a temporary, spring restriction will only benefit the healthy. The father of the Russian elders, the Monk Paisiy Velichkovsky, explained: “If the flesh is inflamed by youth, then much should abstain; if it is weak, then it is necessary to eat enough to be full, regardless of other ascetics – many or few people fast; see, reason according to your weakness, as much as you can accommodate: to each measure and an inner teacher – his own conscience. Moderate and reasonable fasting is the foundation and head of all virtues. “
They get used to fasting gradually: “Let each person establish the daily measure and the amount of food for himself so that if it turns out to be excessive and producing heaviness, he would reduce it; and when he sees that the measure he has taken is insufficient to maintain the body, then let him make a small addition. ; and thus, having found out thoroughly – by experiments, he will appoint himself such an amount of food that can support the strength of his body, serving not voluptuousness, but true need. All the same, one measure cannot be legalized. However, for beginners the best measure is to leave food then, while you still feel the hunger “(Rev. Nil of Sorsk). The minimum attention to this side of the life of your body, according to the priests, is the most correct way. The paranoid finding out whether there was an egg in the eaten bun, as well as delicious dishes from the “right products”, is not fasting, but coquetry, a road to nowhere.
Regarding fasting and intimate relationships, these days licentiousness is unacceptable and restraint is appropriate. Although in such a delicate matter as the fulfillment of marital duties, priests call to be guided by the principles of love and respect for the feelings and needs of their other half.
There is one main criterion for whether your post is going well. The saints teach: by fasting, check yourself – whether love for people lives in you, even if they, as luck would have it, only do what they eat all sorts of goodies right in front of your eyes!