Orthodoxy is defined as ‘correct worship.’ The Orthodox Church is based in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, our Lord who came into the world to redeem our sins. The Orthodox Church began on the day of Pentecost by the Apostles. It is rich in tradition and doctrine. One of the most important periods for Orthodox Christians is the season of preparation before Easter: “The Great Lent.”
As many of us partake in this blessed and important period of Great Lent we must be always prepared and remind ourselves of its great spiritual meaning. In the New Testament fasting was introduced by our Lord Jesus Christ. After His Baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in prayer and fasting in preparation for His sacred ministry. Through this, Jesus taught His disciples and followers to fast. The Apostles of Christ continued in prayer and fasting, and commanded others to do the same. As we read in the book of Acts: “Now in the church at Antioch… while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts. 13:-13)
The Spiritual Fathers of the Church, for example, St. Ephraim, St. Isaac, and S. Jacob, are very clear that fasting entails the following:
- fasting in terms of our diet
- fasting in terms of our daily way of life which includes our prayers, heightened awareness of our words and deeds towards others (for example, the Golden Rule), and our spiritual examination (what can we do for our church).
The period of Lent should be a joyful experience because fasting is a self-discipline which we voluntarily impose upon ourselves in order to become better persons and better Christians. Fasting from foods is intended as spiritual preparations for an experience of deeper communion with God. Fasting and prayer make us more sensitive to God's personal presence.
As we partake in this holy time of Lent, let us ask God to fill us with His grace that it may be truly of time of spiritual growth for all of us.