Posts Tagged ‘fasting’

That’s the upshot of these words of the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann (OCA).  (Link may break after this year; I don’t know if it’s tied to today’s date, as Clean Monday or Pure Monday, the first day of the Great Fast this year, or not.)

An important liturgical and devotional tradition of Byzantine Christianity during the first week of the Fast is the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, a big Orthodox hymnwriter.  Here’s OrthodoxWiki’s briefer discussion, and at bottom of OrthodoxWiki’s article are links to the four portions of this great reflective hymn, sung in sequence Monday through Thursday nights during Great Compline, normally a Night Prayer service (links to service texts at bottom again).  There are also links to the Canon’s portions here.

…is a Patristic characterization of the Orthodox attitude during the Great Fast.  Archbishop LAZAR (Puhalo) from Canada expands upon this:

The Holy Prophet said, “Let the four fasts of the year be joy and gladness to Israel.” Truly, it is a time for repentance. But repentance is a joyous experience, a lifting of burdens, an illumination of the heart, and experience of Paradise. If Great Lent is truly a period of repentance, then how could [it] be other than joy and gladness in the midst of extra temptations, a foretaste of Pascha, a sense of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, because true repentance brings all these into the heart of the believer.

IIUC, some say one of the reasons for the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the West starting in the 1580s, and in favor of the Orthodox New Calendar or “Revised Julian Calendar” starting in the 1920s, was that with the movement of the astronomical Vernal Equinox with respect to the ‘official’ – or what we industrial moderns might call standardized – Vernal Equinox of March 21 (Old Style), is that otherwise Easter or Pascha would, after many, many years (40,000 or something?), “catch up with Christmas” or Nativity.

But I’ve just realized this is not true.  Unless it’s changed by human action, the Great Feast of the Nativity of the Lord will always be on December 25.  It so happens that, unless the Easter / Pascha rules are changed, *it* always falls from March 22 to April 25 inclusive, according to the calendar with which it is being computed – Gregorian for the West, “Julian” for the East (which is why sometimes Orthodox Pascha comes in May according to the New or Gregorian calendars).  And unless changed by some ridiculous human action, April 25 will never catch up with December 25!

What may happen, given alot of time, is that Orthodox Pascha will catch up with Gregorian and New Calendar Nativity/s.  But that’s the fault of the adopters of those newer calendars, right?!*  (Speaking objectively, that is!)

In that time frame though, we would see Pascha in Northern Hemisphere late Fall, and Nativity in NH late Summer or something.  But as an English priest said, Orthodox aren’t really worshiping the seasons.  And besides, Southern Hemisphere Christians are already celebrating these major feasts in different seasons from the North!

A trace of this movement is already seen in New Calendar jurisdictions (like my own, the Greek Archdiocese of America), where the Apostles’ Fast leading up to the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, is currently 13 days shorter than in Old Calendar jurisdictions and parishes – ie, shorter than it used to be – and some years is eliminated by a later Pascha.  In 2100 this will increase to two whole weeks.  Furthermore, while currently Orthodox Pascha usually comes one, four, or five weeks after Western Easter (otherwise, on the same day), in the 25th century it will add *six* weeks to the mix, AD 2698 will be the last year they coincide, and in 2725 it will come *two* weeks later for the first time – illustrating the general long-term thrust as being later than the Western dates.

(*–In the ’20s there was a proposal to change how Orthodox compute Pascha along with the New Calendar, that would remove this risk.  But no Orthodox Synod wanted to change Pascha.)

…or as some of us prefer, the Great Fast, or Great Lent, is today, Clean Monday (or Pure Monday), and runs till Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday.  (Orthodox Easter, Pascha, is April 27, this year.)  Here’s the OCA’s piece on the start of the Fast.

This year the Orthodox Great Fast aka Great Lent begins on Monday, March 10, Clean Monday aka Pure Monday.  This week, Monday through Sunday, is Cheesefare Week, and last week was Meatfare Week.

During Meatfare, we eat-up any meat left in our houses, because we won’t have any more meat until Pascha, the Great Feast of Feasts, the Resurrection of the Lord.  This is where the carne in some Western countries’ Carneval aka Carnival comes from (as in chili con carne); the Western Church used to have similar Lenten fasting rules to Orthodoxy.  (That’s “flesh” as in meat, not as in sexual revelry!!)

During Cheesefare, we eat-up any dairy products left, same reason.  That is, milk, cheese, butter, anything from an animal’s udder.

(As usual, fasting rules tend to be lessened for the very young or old, or the sick, in consultation with your priest.)

However, I’m not aware of any Orthodox-influenced culture that ‘parties hardy’ all-out at this time like the well-known Mardi Gras or Carneval as in Brazil, Louisiana, or Quebec!  Though there is this! 😉

On Monday August 1, we entered the Transfiguration / Dormition Fast, which continues through 8/14. (It’s usually just called the Dormition Fast.) And it occurred to me that Orthodox commemorate Mary’s falling asleep on the 15th, but the West, her Assumption, which we say took place within three days of her burial. That is, the Assumption may have taken place right after she was buried; all we know for sure is that her tomb was empty on the third day when St. Thomas, in God’s Providence, arrived from India and found it so.

Considering that the West is agnostic concerning her death, who is more credible?