Great Lent is almost upon us. We use the terms Lent, Great Lent, and Great Fast interchangeably. This year it begins on Feb 15 (Mar 15 Julian Calendar). During this time we are encouraged to take forty days to prepare ourselves, and our families, so as to be spiritually ready, and worthy to celebrate and worship the Resurrection–April 4 (May 2 Julian Calendar). We are encouraged to fast, pray more, and to practice intentional charity(almsgiving). Here are some resources and suggestions which can help guide us in our journey.
Increase Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving:
- Almsgiving, along with prayer and fasting make up the three-legged stool, which holds us up in our Lenten journey. These three when practiced together help to open our hearts to the Lord, so we may be touched by divine grace.
- If you have a family, speak with your spouse, and children about your expectations for Great Lent and decide as a family what you will do to increase your prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
- It is a beautiful and encouraged practice to set aside the money we save from fasting during Great Lent. The money saved by not going out for lunch or supper, eating simpler and less each day can be donated to those in need.
- Consider sacrificing by increasing your donations at your parish, either in general or for a special project.
- Be purposeful about making the extra time to pray and to listen to God. Give yourself a few minutes to read the Holy Scriptures and contemplate the coming day before setting off to work and school. You can sign up to get short daily readings and reflections from Royal doors at https://royaldoors.net/
- Read the lives of the saints, the Psalter (psalms), or a book on prayer. There is some suggested Lenten reading material down below.
- Get the calendar of your parish or check out live-streamed services and plan to attend as a family. Consider attending the Canon of St. Andrew (this is good for both the body and soul!), the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, Sorokousty, or Vespers.
- Start your Lenten journey on the right foot with forgiveness. Some parishes will offer Forgiveness Vespers, on the evening of Cheesefare Sunday, or will attach the forgiveness service to the end of the Sunday Divine Liturgy. You could also call family, friends and those who we may have offended and ask forgiveness.
Make a Good Confession:
- Take time to thoroughly examine your heart and soul. Here is a helpful guide as we face our conscience:
- Turn off the television for all of Great Lent. If you can’t do that, pick only certain times or days you will watch.
- Instead of TV watch some Religious videos. There are some excellent presentations on various prayers here: https://eeparchy.com/catholic-prayer/
- Watch Christian Videos with your children. You can borrow DVDs from the Eparchial Catechetical Resource centre (Give us a call (780) 424-5496)
- Get to know some of the saints by watching these short informative videos here: https://eeparchy.com/saints/
- Set a limit on the amount of time you will spend in front of a screen and the internet each day outside of work—this includes cell phones.
- Take a break from Facebook Twitter or Instagram or at least take them off your phone so that they are not readily available.
- Turn off the radio in the car and enjoy the quiet or download Christian Podcasts or prayers. Find some here: Between the Pews, Bible in a Year, https://eeparchy.com/catholic-prayer/
- Renew or start a new hobby. Hobbies or crafts can help us feel inspired, keep our hands busy and give us an opportunity for a break. You can listen to your Christian Podcasts while you do! The Jesus Prayer would be great for this.
- Set aside family time:
- Eat dinner together.
- Attend church services together.
- Play board games together.
- Read together: Holy Scripture and other Christ centered books. Many are available to borrow or buy from the Edmonton Eparchy Pastoral centre. (Give us a call (780) 424-5496)
- Check out “The Zaccheaus Tree” by Lynne Drozdich Wardach. It is a great family resource available through Macrina bookstore. This contains daily Scripture readings, prayers, and crafts that bring the season of the Great Fast home for kids (and parents).
Suggested Adult Readings for Great Lent:
- The Holy Bible: If you can only read one book during Great Lent it should be the Holy Scriptures. Go here: https://eeparchy.com/monthy-propers/ for the daily prayers and Scripture readings.
- The Lenten Triodion: This book gives all the changeable parts for every prayer service in Great Lent. It is filled with wonderful prayers and meditations. PDF – What is the Triodion?
- Wondering who all those saints are on the calendar? Check out the Daily Synaxarion here. Get to know the saints by reading these short introductions.
- Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann: A deep reflection on the meaning and purpose of Great Lent.
- On Repentance and Almsgiving & On Living Simply by St John Chrysostom (347-407). St John has much to say to us about family life, marriage, and how we as Christians are to conduct ourselves even for us in the 21st century.
- Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. This little book has helped many Christians move from “saying prayers” to actually praying.
- A Paschal Pilgrimage: A Guide for the great Fast for Ukrainian Catholics by Bishop Basil Losten.
Resources for the Domestic Church:
- PDF – Great Lent at Home (Family Activity Book): This activity book has beautiful short daily Lenten reflections and activities for individuals and families alike.
- PDF – Vegetable Soup Recipe: A basic soup recipe for strict fasting days.
- PDF – Great Fast Calendar for Families: This has great ideas for daily activities and things to think about during the Pre-Lenten and the days of Great Lent.
Lenten Activities for Busy Families:
This resource is designed to help families to reflect on The Great Fast (Lent) and decide together on what they will do differently to observe this time of the liturgical year. They were originally created to do in a group at a parish, but they can easily be done as a family at home.
PDF – Activity Our Lenten Calendar
PDF – Little Lenten Living Boxes
PDF – Take Time
PDF – Great Fast Plans for Busy Families Whole Family Catechesis Session Leader Guide