Officially Lent has begun. I have been meaning to write about the Lenten Triodian (the three weeks preceding Lent) but haven't gotten around to it. Claire's post today reminded me to write what has already taken place in our Lenten journey.
It started with forgiveness. What a wonderful way to start. I can't adequately describe how incredible it is to literally ask everyone present at Forgiveness Vespers for their forgiveness. Even when you don't know someone very well, you still ask their forgiveness. You say "forgive me a sinner" and they respond with "God forgives, and I forgive" and then ask for your forgiveness as well. Individually. One by one.
The word nervous does not begin to describe how I felt walking into the nave on Sunday evening. But now, I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it feels to know that the air is cleared! Everyone is at peace... now the Great Fast can begin!
Dear readers, forgive me a sinner.
During the Vespers service the priests change into their dark colored vestments, the lights are dimmed, the bells are removed from the censer, everything changes. Welcome to the bright sadness that is Lent.
After everyone has asked for forgiveness the choir sings the Paschal Cannon. Although we don't actually sing the refrain "Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death" at this time (we save that for Pascha,) it still gives us a glimpse of what is waiting for us after Lent. I can't help but start to cry whenever I sing the words "Shine O new Jerusalem the Glory of the Lord has shown on you!"
Yesterday was Clean Monday, the first official day of the fast. This first week is most stringent. Not only do we give up all of the foods we will be fasting from for the duration of Lent, but some people don't eat for most of the week.
I participated in an old tradition yesterday without knowing it, I cleaned out my messy, messy car. It made sense to clean on Clean Monday, little did I know it really was a tradition. I have a cleaning schedule for the remainder of the week including my closets, dresser, craft supplies, etc.
Last night we prayed the Cannon of St. Andrew of Crete. It is a beautiful service. We make several prostrations throughout the service, I have heard somewhere near 1,000 total, I know it feels like that many.
This is the best photo I could find of someone making a prostration (he's the one on the floor.) It's sort of difficult to describe if you've never seen one, but basically we fall on our hands and knees to the floor with our head down (most people also touch their forehead the the ground as well) and then stand up. I honestly can't think of a better way to ask for the Lord's mercy. It's tough, especially throughout a 2 hour service. But this is Great Lent. I wouldn't have it any other way.
We will have services every night this week. I love this time. I love being in the church. I love this return to "normalcy" as Lent has been described. I should always pray this much. I should always make an effort to abstain from sin. These reasons are why the fast is such a beautiful time.
We miss the foods we give up (meat, dairy, olive oil, and wine.) But the fasting helps us to control our bodies as we strive to control our thoughts and actions.
Today, I have my Hambeen 15 Bean Soup on the stove. I wanted to share some yummy fasting friendly recipes with you all throughout the fast. This is a favorite that I try to keep in the fridge. It's cheap, in keeping with the traditional spirit of the fast. In my short time as an Orthodox Christian, I have at times spent lots of money on fasting friendly food when this is not the true spirit of fasting.
I soaked the beans yesterday, and they are simmering on the stove right now. The bag calls for onions, carrots, ham hock, etc. But I just make the beans. I toss out the ham flavor packet (because it has ham fat in it, ew.) Then I cook it per the package directions and add a few handfuls of Cavender's Greek seasoning. Yum. Yum. Yum. Bring on the healthy protein, high fiber, and low fat soup! (Also, very tasty with a bit of fresh lemon juice.)
Talk to you soon.