Lent began this afternoon with the Forgiveness Vespers Service. This is our first year in an Eastern-Rite Orthodox Church. I really enjoyed the service today and look forward to encountering more lenten services the weeks ahead.
The focus of lent is truly about fasting from sin, but fasting from certain foods, prayer, and almsgiving are avenues to this end. Here are some of my "tips" or getting through lent. Let me add the disclaimer that I am NOT an expert at fasting. These are just some things that I have found helpful.
1. Pray! Pray like you are really in a battle (it is more real than we know). If I begin the day praying, I have more energy to journey on and am less likely to despair. I suggest Met. Philaret's prayer for the beginning of the day, and the Lenten standard: The Prayer of St. Ephraim (see below). Really embrace the words and keep them with you throughout the day.
2. Go to the extra church services if at all possible. It is SO encouraging to remember that we (the Church) are all in this together. It is easy to get bitter if you feel alone in fasting. Truly, I have found that struggling through Lent with my fellow parishioners glues our community together in a way that nothing else can.
Since Luke doesn't do well at the night services in general, I am going to try to listen to Ancient Faith Radio podcasts during the season. We will try to actually make it to church too, but it may not always be possible. AFR is such a tremendous resource for families to bring the Church into their homes.
3. Have a project. If you are spending less on food, buy extra food for the local food bank, send money to Haiti, etc... Almsgiving really helps fasting make more sense to me. Volunteering works if you cannot give, just have a goal.
4. Find good recipes and recycle them. I always face the temptation of trying out all sorts of recipes and spending hours in the kitchen. As our priest in CA said, Lent is about simplification. The fast is to focus our minds on the spiritual, not on proper meal preparation. OrthodoxMom.com, Orthodox Mother's Digest , and this site have hosted several fasting recipe swaps.
5. Have a baked potato night each week. Baked potatoes are great, and there is little prep time involved. I like to rub oil on the skins before baking them. They are 10x better this way and it encourages everyone to eat the skin (the best part in my opinion!). Vegans-serve with baked beans, chopped green onions, BBQ sauce, salt, pepper, grilled onions. Vegetarians- use cheese, cottage cheese, butter, sour cream, etc... Homemade pizza once a week is also good, and fun for a Saturday night.
6. Make breakfast easy. I like Emily's idea of having oatmeal every day. For myself, I know that the more I have to think about, the more distracted with food I become. I also like cheese or a homemade energy bar for breakfast.
7. Prep veggies and fruit and dips to have on hand. Tomorrow I will make hummus, ranch dip (160z sour cream + 1 packet dry ranch dressing mix), and cut up a bunch of carrots.
May God bless you all and multiply your efforts to His glory!
Lenten Prayer Of St. Ephrem The Syrian
O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.