This Week in Orthodoxy: Special Lenten Edition

This Week in Orthodoxy: Special Lenten Edition

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Hello, I’m Emmy Louvaris with “This Week in Orthodoxy,” the world’s only online video newscast focused on events in the life of the Orthodox Church.

We have a special Lenten Edition of This Week in Orthodoxy.

How do you turn the young Orthodox Christian on to the idea of Lent? What are the historical and biblical roots of the Lent? Why do we fast, and what are the exceptions to a strict fast? We’ll address these topics and more on this special Lenten Edition of This Week In Orthodoxy.

Segment 1: Special Edition

Keeping Lent in Modern Life
In a modern world full of fast food, smart phones, and commercialism, it can be extremely difficult for an Orthodox Christian, especially Orthodox Youth, to maintain discipline for the 40 day fast. So, what can parents, Godparents and family do to turn their children on to the idea of Lent?

OrthodoxMom.com has some useful recommendations on how to prepare Orthodox children for the Lenten Season. Parents can create an activity book with word searches, icons to color, and other activities centered around the Bible and the spirit of Lent. Kids who are in preschool and kindergarten may not be able to adhere to a strict fast, but their spiritual health can be nurtured by teaching them Christian values of Love, Giving, and Sharing. Children understand the concept of love, and it can be beneficial to put Lent in the context of mutual love between Jesus, who gave up His life, and the family.

Parents can also try a topic of the week. One example is to make a flower, with seven petals, each representing a different feeling or action like “Love,” “Giving,” “Sharing.” Each week, engage your kids on a chosen topic. Provide examples and ask them to give examples that demonstrate each topic. After each week, add the petal to the flower.

Children learn best through hands-on experience and interaction. Read a Children’s Bible with them and, when in church, explain to them what is going on during the services in terms they can understand. For example, when the Priest blesses the congregation with incense, you can explain to them that their prayers are being carried to Heaven for God to hear.

Another idea, which can be found on the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America website, includes creating a Lenten calendar focusing on the various icons representing Christ’s journey throughout the Lenten season. Discuss with your children the meaning and significance of each icon.

If you have other questions about how to engage your children in the Lenten season, consult your parish priest for other ideas, or visit one of many Orthodox websites focused on this topic.

Roots of the Lenten Fast
For Orthodox Christians worldwide, we understand WHY we fast, to prepare ourselves for the Resurrection, but what are the roots of the fast? Where did this tradition come from, and why do we Orthodox adhere to a stricter fast than many other faiths?

The idea of the Paschal fast was a carry-over from the Jewish traditions, but there was no uniform practice for fasting. Some early Christians only fasted for several days, others for weeks. Most early Christians observed a Wednesday and Friday fast to commemorate the days Christ was betrayed and crucified, and the fast was normally observed until sundown.

St. Augustine attributes the 40-day fast to the persecution of Christians when early faithful would seek refuge in the monasteries and, as a result, partook in the strict 40-day, bread and vegetable fast observed by the Monks and Hermits. Over time, the 40-day fast became the norm, and eventually it became the standard fast we participate in today.

The 40-day fast draws its origins from the 40 days Christ spent in the desert, preparing His body and spirit while warding off temptations. Today, the fast is seen as a time of delight. It’s a time when we become more aware of our spiritual self and seek to cleanse ourselves of sin as we prepare to embrace Christ’s triumph over death.

Great Lent is a sacred part of the Orthodox Faith that serves to improve the faith and morals of a Christian life.

Restrictions on Fasting
Now, even though we are encouraged to adhere to the 40-day fast, there may be some conditions that warrant a departure from the strict routine. But what are they?

As discussed earlier in this segment, young children can be exempted from the strict 40-day fast, but ages vary. The church’s early fathers believed a child could begin to fast as soon as they no longer required a mother’s milk. However, others recommend a child begin the fast after 5 or 6 years of age, citing medical health reasons. Parents who are concerned about nutritional sustenance can replace red meat with lentils, for protein and iron.

On the day of Easter, minimize your child’s intake of lamb, if your family does a Paschal lamb. They shouldn’t consume a huge feast as it can cause digestive issues, and lamb should be balanced with fruits and vegetables. Oregano contains thymol and rosmarinic acids, which serve as an anti-oxidant. You can also add lemon, which has vitamin C and citric acid to help with the absorption of iron.

It is important to note that moderation is the key. Expectant mothers, the elderly, and those who are physically ill can also observe a light fast. In all cases, you should consult both your physician and parish priest.

Sunday of Orthodoxy
Finally, this Sunday is the Sunday of Orthodoxy, which marked the end of the iconoclasm persecution that began under Byzantine Emperor Leo III. Starting around 726 A.D., Emperor Leo III placed a ban on religious icons, believing them to be graven images in violation of the second commandment. The reasons for the rise in iconoclasm are open to speculation, but some historians point to the rise in importance of some icons over others.

In early Christendom, icons that were known to perform miracles or foster healing received wide veneration. Often times, healed individuals would carve a cross into the icon. This was considered the ancient equivalent of the tamata in the Greek Orthodox Church, or votive offerings in Catholicism. The more crosses that were carved, the more important the icon was deemed.

Other icons attempted to humanize religious figures by placing human expressions such as sorrow on their faces. Eventually, a compromise was reached, and the rules of modern iconography were established. The Byzantine Empress and Orthodox Saint, Theodora, committed herself to restoring the presence of icons, and in exchange, icon writers agreed to depict religious figures in an somber manner.

Segment 2. News from OCN

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That is it for “This Week in Orthodoxy.” For everyone in our studios, I’m Emmy Louvaris. Let’s go forth in peace.


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About author
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Dean Argiris

Constantine (Dean) Argiris is a lifelong Orthodox Christian from the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago who has devoted his time to raising awareness of the 1915-1922 Asia Minor Genocide. His works on the Greek economic crisis have been published in international Greek diaspora news media outlets. Professionally, he works in the political scene as a Staff Assistant to a Chicago Alderman. Previously, he worked as a party-paid staffer for the Illinois Senate, a Regional Field Director for President Obama's "Organizing for America" and has run a number of federal and state level political campaigns as an independent consultant.