The Great Lenten Journey
by Patriarch Shnorhk I Kaloustian
We would like to share with you an excerpt from the late Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop Shnorhk I Kaloustian's book Saints & Sacraments of the Armenian Church regarding Great Lent...
What is Lent?
Lent is intended to commemorate the forty days of fasting of Our Lord (Matt. 4:2). In our Church, as well as in all Eastern Churches, the great fast of Lent begins with the Monday following the Sunday of “Poon Paregentan.” Lent is a period of forty days counting from the above-mentioned Monday to the evening of the Friday before Palm Sunday.
The whole Lenten period, including Holy Week, is intended to be one of self discipline. In this period, particularly, we should consider our shortcomings, and make efforts to rectify them. It is a time set aside by the Church for self-examination and self-appraisal, to strengthen our character and to renew our purpose in life. None of us is so perfect that no room is left for further moral and spiritual improvement. We all have faults, weaknesses and sins, and Lent is the most appropriate time in which to make penance and to correct them. To achieve this goal, examination of conscience is the first necessary step, followed by a resolution to be more humble, and gentler, and to exercise self control over our appetites, which is the main principle behind the practice of Lent.
How do I take part in Lent?
Prayer and Reflection
Prayer means speaking with God in spiritual communion. Reflection requires examining your life seriously and thoughtfully. Together, they help us learn more about God and ourselves. We receive spiritual strength by learning to rely on God as well as on our own inner resources.
Fasting During Lent
During Lent we are like athletes in training to "fight the good fight" and "finish the race" as St. Paul expressed it. What we do externally can affect our inner condition. So we take on an outward discipline that will balance the inward discipline of Lent. Part of that outward discipline is fasting. Like the strict regimen of athletes, it is meant to strengthen and firm our spiritual self.
The Church's rules prescribe that for 40 days preceding Palm Sunday we abstain from all animal products: meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. We should also refrain from parties, movies, and frivolous entertainment. In our day, many find this difficult, but every faithful Christian can do the following to remain in the spirit of Lent:
1. Keep Wednesdays and Fridays as fast days.
2. Cut down on outside activities.
3. Put aside a regular and consistent amount of time daily for private prayer, and for reading the Bible and spiritual books.
4. Attend all Lenten church services and Bible Studies faithfully.
Good Deeds and Almsgiving
These consist of self-sacrifice to serve and benefit others. Christ and His Apostles spent their lives serving others. Christ instructed His followers to do good deeds for spiritual rewards, not for human recognition. By doing good, you can ease the emotional and physical pain of people in need. But you also encourage compassion and charity in your daily life and strengthen your Christian soul.
-From Saints & Sacraments of the Armenian Church, Patriarch Shnorhk Kaloustian
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