#1 – As Far As the East Is from the West…
…so far has He removed our sins from us.”
-Psalm 103:12 (NABRE)
This quote is definitely worthy of reflection during Lent. As we become more aware of our shortcomings through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and other acts of penance, we should be proportionately more grateful that all these nasty things we start to realize about ourselves are readily forgiven by God. Riffing on the parable of the sheep and the goats, a priest recently referred to the confessional as the “goat box” and encouraged us to visit frequently during Lent. Good advice, indeed.
This particular line of Psalmistry* also came to mind as an appropriate title because this Lent, I am stretching myself between the Eastern and Western traditions of the Catholic Church. The Byzantine Rite involves a Divine Liturgy, penned by St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil (the latter wrote the older, longer liturgy that’s reserved for Lent), which is different in specific prayers and hymns but equally sacramentally valid to the Roman Catholic Mass. Over this season of Lent I will try to explain a bit about the Byzantines and why I’m in love with their particular forms of piety. For now, I’ll focus on the demands of Lent and the culture clash I’ve nestled myself into for the next several weeks.
*Is that a word? It should be.
The Byzantines call the period of preparation leading up to Easter the Great Fast. Byzantines like to get a running start to the Great Fast compared to their Roman cousins. First of all, it begins two days prior to Ash Wednesday. Secondly, to prepare for the traditional abstinence from meat, eggs, and dairy, the Sundays leading up to the Great Fast are Meatfare Sunday and then Cheesefare Sunday. The idea is that by making these two Sundays the last day of eating meat and dairy, respectively, the fast is in full swing by Monday. I kind of failed at Meatfare week, deciding instead to eat up my stash of meat products so I wouldn’t be so tempted during the fast. I started the full fast Monday, only to be broken for a cup of dairy-delicious Raspberry Hot Chocolate last night (after all, it’s my obligation as a Roman to have something special on Mardi Gras). Keeping “strict abstinence” from both meat and dairy is only required by Byzantine law on the first day and Good Friday, with regular old abstinence-from-meat required each Wednesday and Friday of the season. Still, I decided to go for the full traditional fast, since any of my other attempts at food-related sacrifice during Lent (e.g. no eating between meals, no sugary stuff) morph into thinly veiled diet plans and tend to reinforce my vanity more than they do my sense of repentance. And now that I’ve bragged about it on the internet, I guess this one is just reinforcing my vanity differently. 😉 In all seriousness, though, I thought I’d post about it for the sake of stirring up some Eastern Catholic curiosity and reinforcing one another in our various Lenten commitments.
What are you giving up or doing for Lent, if you don’t mind sharing? We’d love to hear about it (see the poll).
Slava Isusu Christu! (“Glory to Jesus Christ!” in Slavonic)