Now the fast is come, the mother of sobriety, the accuser of sin, the upholder of repentance, the manner of life of the angels, and the salvation of men. Let us cry out, O ye faithful: O God, have mercy on us.

From the Vespers Service for Clean Monday

Great Lent is now upon us. The Church beckons us to change our thoughts, to give up our worldly desires and embrace a spirit of repentance. It is the time for us to deepen our spiritual struggle through prayer and abstinence. We now turn our gaze from the visage of the worldly, to the spiritual to refocus on the love of our Lord.

Abstinence is commonly practiced as a fast from dairy, eggs, and flesh meats, though it might also include limiting our exposure to such worldly pursuits as TV, Radio, Facebook, etc. and other such worldly distractions.

To our contemporaries, our Lenten efforts may seem foolish, extreme, or even border-line harmful. They may say that our ways are extreme. One can’t help but be amused as we consider the various self-help practitioners who use daily detox treatments, extreme dieting, and other borderline eating-disorder-like practices. The point is not to abuse the idea of using healthy choices with our foods though we must take care to remember that gluttony is one of the vices, which leads man to temptation.

Some of their methods may mimic fasting, consider the Vegan for a moment. But one thing is lacking. As Faith without Works is dead, and likewise Works without Faith, so is Fasting dead if it is not accompanied by prayer. Fasting, in a worldly sense can be beneficial, but it is not transformative and soul saving as we find in the Orthopraxis of our beloved Orthodox Faith. Without prayer, fasting is merely the “latest fad diet”.

It is no surprise that Church instructs us thus: <the fast is>… the mother of sobriety, the accuser of sin, the upholder of repentance, the manner of life of the angels, and the salvation of men. 

As weaken the grasp of the “old man” and escape the snares of the evil one, may we ever cry out from the depths of our heart – O God, have mercy on us.

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