A Series of Articles for Ongoing Adult Christian Education to help “strengthen the religious and moral life of our parishioners…”
The Preparation for Lent
The mission of our parish is to keep, practice, and proclaim the Word of God and strengthen the religious and moral life of our parishioners in accordance with the Holy Traditions and Canons of the Church in its fullness as faithful members of the Body of Christ. (Parish Mission Statement)
One of the ways we accomplish this is through our participation in the annual cycle of the church, particularly the period of Lent & Pascha, and the preparation time beforehand. This month I would like to focus on the Preparation for Lent. If you have participated in the Orthodox Study Forum, some of this might sound familiar.
The preparation for Lent includes five (nearly) consecutive Sundays preceding the Great Fast. They are:
SUNDAY FOCUS EPISTLE GOSPEL
– Sunday of Zaccheus The Desire 1 Timothy 4:9-15 Luke 19:1-10
– Sunday of the
Publican & Pharisee Humility 2 Timothy 3:10-15 Luke 18:10-14
– Sunday of the
Prodigal Son Return from Exile 1 Cor. 6:12-20 Luke 15:11-32
– Sunday of Meat-Fare The Last Judgement 1 Cor. 8:8-9:2 Matthew 25:31-46
– Sunday of Cheese-Fare Forgiveness Romans 13:11-14:4 Matthew 6:14-21
(The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise & the day before Lent begins)
Along with these Sunday focuses, the fasting guidelines of the Church begin a gradual change from total liberty to strict discipline. This is once again a reminder that by controlling what goes into our mouth and denying our appetite, we may also gain a discipline over the urges of our flesh.
It is also important to note that although we should be more concerned about what comes out of our mouths than what goes in; we cannot use this as an excuse to ignore fasting. And lest we be caught off guard we are kept in constant focus; Lent is coming; the passion of Christ is coming. “Prepare yourselves!”
When we look at the Pre-lenten Sundays we see an urgency in the Church’s call to preparedness. We are given reminders of our need to repent and turn away from the snares of this world. We are reminded that there is a severe cost to the indulgence of sinful actions. Our God loves us with a love beyond our comprehension, but we must be responsible to that love and not take it for granted. Nor can we neglect our discipline, for it is only in a truly disciplined spiritual life that we can hope to fully gain the benefit of God’s presence — indeed that we can possibly even be able to stand in His all-holy and all-pure presence.
“Prepare yourselves, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”