Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
There is something wonderful about anticipation. The moments right before an important trip when we are waiting for something to happen and our adrenaline is flowing. It’s just as much a part of the journey as anything else.
The Church understands the power of anticipation. She built it into her schedule and takes full advantage of it. I am referring to the Triodion. The Triodion is the time period before Great Lent where we warm-up to the expectations and demands of the 7 weeks of preparation for our Lord’s resurrection.
Preparing for the fast.
It’s very easy to be distracted by food during any fasting period. It’s not all about the food, but that doesn’t mean we can dismiss it. There is a connection between the spiritual and physical aspects of the fast. For example, if we can’t control what goes into our mouth, how are we going to control what comes out. When we pray, we pray with full metanies.
Taking it easy
In the Triodion, we do not fast during the first week. It’s a free pass, a bye week. The ardent fasters rejoice in the simple pleasure of a fast free week eating hamburgers on a Wednesday or wings on a Friday.
On the spiritual side, the first week focuses on the Publican and the Pharisee and the theme of “Getting in the right frame of mind.” Lent isn’t a time to be proud of our spiritual accomplishments. It’s a time to repent and realize that God’s grace is a gift we will never earn. It is a time where we are reminded that we are sinners, not to compare ourselves with others.
We return to fasting on Wednesday and Friday during the second week, and it’s time to clean out the kitchen. For children and the young at heart, the anticipation is personified as a “last chance” week. It’s our last chance for our favorite meaty meal. Maybe we have a preferred Mexican place or an awesome BBQ joint. This is our “last chance” to splurge before the fast starts.
Spiritually, we look at the Prodigal Son, reminding us that to be restored we have to do two things. First, we have to realize we may not be where we are supposed to be. Then, we have to get up and do something about it. Like the Son, we have to “come to our senses” and see that we have our own “feeding the swine” moment that is not God’s desire for us. God has something greater in store. The Gospel also offers a reminder that our Father is waiting for us with open arms to turn things around and return home.
It’s getting serious
And now, as the anticipation continues to build, we are tuning-in to focus on the task at hand. In this final week before Great Lent we remove all meat products from our diet. (Dairy and eggs, oil and wine stay.) Now we are thinking, “Oh, oh!” this is getting serious. We are pulling our vegan cook books out and imagining meals we are going to serve. We’re referencing our Pinterest pages with ideas and options. We might even be writing posts on Facebook desperate for recipes because we don’t want to eat spaghetti for the next 7 weeks.
Spiritually, the Gospel message goes to the core of it all; Judgement. We can be assured that at the end of our life there will be a judgement. Our judgement is not about what we did for ourselves or for God, but what we didn’t do for those we didn’t know or love. Did we feed the hungry? Did we visit the sick? Did we clothe the naked? Did we see God in our neighbors?
And finally, the fast starts.
Is everything in place? Has the pantry been switched over to the fasting essentials? Have we cleared our schedule for the evening services? Have we found a way to serve our fellow man? So many questions, I know. But it’s the final check list as we stand on the edge of a spiritual journey.
And right there to push us over is Forgiveness Sunday with direction on the necessity of forgiveness and how to fast.
The anticipation is over. May we have the strength we need to enjoy the journey that awaits.