Today we hereby begin our Lenten Journey of strict fasting and spiritual strengthening. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, this day is called, Clean Monday, or in Greek, Καθαρά Δευτέρα, which actually started yesterday, the Sunday evening during the Forgiveness Vespers. This is a sacred time for all Christians who celebrate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered (Luke 4:2).”
As the first day of Lent, Christians worldwide are beginning their cleansing in terms of what they will fast and keep consistent during these 40 days leading to Holy Week. The Lenten Journey expounds this understanding and imperative focus for all Christians to grow in faith, with a strong emphasis on prayer, repentance, and fasting.
“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward (Matthew 6:16-18).”
This extremely Holy time is observed in the Eastern Orthodox Church and in Catholic Churches, signifying a season of humility and a decreased occurrence of sin. Christians should be diligently mindful of their constant doings whether in word, deed, or thought. Prayer and repentance is to have the utmost focus and consistency.
Fasting is another topic all on its own. Many have their own interpretations of what everyone should fast, and this can be broken down in many forms. Some will fast only meat, while others will hold a stricter fast eliminating all animals, including fish and shellfish. This will vary among families, denominations, and parishes.
In the act of fasting, there is not right or wrong, in the eyes of our Lord. In all honesty, fasting should be something that the person wants to do, but not forced to do. It defeats the purpose of fasting, if the person is sulking and complaining all throughout the Lenten days. If you cannot handle fasting, do not fast.
The Lenten Journey is one to be honored and respected. This is not the time to stomp your feet or boast to those around you about what you can and cannot eat. Either acknowledge the purpose of Lent and our humility towards our Precious Lord Jesus, or do not bother fasting at all. This is a time to reflect on one’s mind, body, and soul.
Holy Week reenacts the 40 days our Lord went without food, and tempted by the devil, in the dessert. Do not forget why Holy Week is so crucial in Christianity. It represents the very epitome of our Lord’s purpose here on earth. Jesus was brutally beaten, nailed to the Cross, died, and then resurrected for all of us, unworthy sinners. He paved the path for humanity to have the opportunity to believe, get baptized, repent, and hopefully make it to the Kingdom of God.
Most so-called Christians have the misconception that Jesus’ death grants us overall forgiveness of sins and entrance to heaven. This is an incorrect thought. We are given the opportunity to repent and be forgiven from our Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. It is our duty to then pray, and repent to our Lord to forgive us, on a daily basis.
Beloved followers of Christ, may God be with you all during this Lenten Season. Remember to increase your praying and repentance. When you are to fast, do it with the whole heart, and know that it is for our Lord, Jesus.