Lent as our gift to God

08.03.2011, 14:32
On Monday, the Orthodox Christians started the Lent which will last for seven weeks. What is a fast, why is it observed and how should one do it?

On Monday, the Orthodox Christians started the Lent which will last for seven weeks. What is a fast, why is it observed and how should one do it?

The Lent before Easter is one of the greatest and strictest fasts.  According to the Holy Scripture, Jesus Christ fasted in the desert for 40 days. He went there after his baptism in order to overcome His human nature and thereby prove that man can overcome the devil provided that it is his sincere desire.  Desert has become a place of trial for the Jews viewed it as the dwelling place of death and evil forces: there is no water and no life there.

The Holy Scripture says that after 40 days of fasting, "+the devil came to Him and said: "If you are the Son of God tell these stones to turn into bread." It was the first, simplest temptation. Then the devil prepared another test for Christ, test by the power over the world, as he wanted to stir pride in Him. However, Jesus invariably submitted his will to God's will and overcame thereby.  "And having finished the temptation the devil left Him."

"In the wilderness, Christ observed a very strict fast. He even went without food, but people must not go without food.  Fasting keeps us from various passions, lust and fornication. Satan is very afraid of it. It hurts him at that time. When people fast and pray, satan is writhing," said the senior priest of the Church of Christmas of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, Hegumen Veniamin.

Fast was given by the Lord to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: they were not allowed to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. It was the commandment to teach man obedience and it is still actual today. Our ancestors observed strict fasting. They even said that fasting raises one from the grave. But this abstaining from food was considered full and full-value only if it concerned also one's thoughts, feelings and tongue.  They understood that at that time one should not only abstain from meat but also to control one's thoughts. Of course. It was not easy at all, but they believed that sins are forgiven exactly during sincere fasting," said the head of the scientific laboratory in Ethnology of Podillia of Vinnytsia M. Kotsiubynskyi State Pedagogical University, Tetiana Pirus.

During a fast, food was restricted. As a rule, they abstained from meat, dairy products, fish, eggs. Only Lenten dishes were allowed. On Sundays and Saturdays and on special holy days, some oil was allowed to be added to that. Fish dishes were allowed only on great feasts, such as Annunciation and the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem.

During the first week and Holy Week, the fast is especially strict. On Monday, the first day of the fast, one can eat bread, fruit, vegetables and drink water and stewed fruit. On holy days during the Lent, fasting becomes milder. On Good Friday, no food is allowed.

Ukrainian cuisine is very diverse. It includes many Lenten dishes, particularly, hot dishes, garnishes, different salads.  For instance, one can boil red beans, add corn, boiled raisins, onion and mix it all. In the end lean mayonnaise is added. Another dish, made of potatoes, during the Lent is cooked without eggs. "Potatoes are grated, then a few spoonfuls of wheat flour, soda (with vinegar), salt, pepper are added. One may also add garlic and carrot. The mixture is baked in the hot pan smeared with oil," Maria Buchatska shares a recipe.  

On the whole, food should not be salty, boiled and stewed dishes are preferred.

Lenten dishes are also approved by doctors. "During a fast, the stomach clears itself. Our ancestors ate meat, then, the Pancake Week came when only dairy products were used and after that they began fasting. It is very good. An organism gradually clears itself in this way," noted a recreation therapist, Natalia Teiko.  

Fasting is often confused with a diet. It is not always relevant and diet has nothing to do with prayer and purification of thoughts and soul.

A wrong understanding of fasting can do spiritual and bodily harm. "The main thing during a fast is not so much the abstention from meat, even though it is also important. The main thing is not to judge anyone. For it was said: do not judge and you will not be judged," continued Hegumen Veniamin.

In the old days, various festivities were prohibited during the Lent, celebrations were cancelled, meat shops were closed and even court proceedings were suspended.

Under the Soviets, everything changed drastically. Churches were closed and no one even mentioned fasting. On the contrary, they organized mass festivities on these days. But Ukrainians still prayed and fasted secretly.

One should fast with a sincere joy in the heart. If fasting is viewed as a heavy burden, there will be no benefit. For it is the restraint that matters and not physical exhaustion. John Crysostom said: "One is mistaken if one thinks that fasting is just abstention from food. A true fast is distancing from evil, overcoming one's tongue, anger, giving up lying and keeping each word+  Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works.

During fasting, one as if cuts off infavourable sensual perception caused by internal and external influences. One finds a purpose, confidence and will power, one is given new strength.

A great Ukrainian philosopher and writer, Hryhorii Skovoroda said that fasting is the most pleasant thing for God. There is no spiritual fasting without the physical one and vice versa.  "You will give your soul as much glitter of spiritual health as much you will refuse your body," said St. Basil the Great.

Fasting should be accompanied with constant prayer and abstention from various pleasures. Then, after it is finished, on Easter, after the all-night service and consecration of the Easter basket, the food becomes even more tasty and one can feel an inner relief.

Therefore, in addition to physical purification of the body, a Christian fast envisages also a spiritual purification and elevation, which is not possible without overcoming one's aggressive physical nature. Fasting envisages reconciliation with one's neighbours, serious meditation on one's life, church attendance and diligent prayer at home to find inner peace. "Fasting is not suffering, It is a great joy. It is the small drop of good which we do for God and therefore do for ourselves. It is abstention from entertainment, pleasures and fun. And constant prayer, of course. And prayer is a talk with God," said a believer, Liudmyla Prokopchuk.