Ten weeks before Pascha, the Orthodox Church enters the Triodion, a season completely set apart in the ecclesiastical year. It is a preparation in different steps, a spiritual ascent toward the Resurrection of the Lord. Firstly we spend three weeks before the Paschal Lent, a period in which we are guided toward humility, as the publican of the parable, toward return to the heavenly Father as the prodigal son, and taking stock of our actions and thoughts, realizing that we will reach the Judgment before the Lord. Secondly we step into Lent, a season of abstinence from foods that originate from animals, and abstinence from bodily passions, both completed by spiritual pursuits. The special food consumption makes no sense in and of itself, unless it is completed through labor of the soul, prayer, repentance, and works of mercy.
St. Ignatius tells us that the struggles of lent refer to the body, but the benefit of lent pour out upon the heart. The soul becomes heavy together with the body, and the heart becomes hardened. Eating inappropriately and without moderation, we condemn ourselves to absence of sensitivity of the heart and to spiritual misunderstanding of our lives and the world. We lose our sense of existence on earth, because food, or matter in general, surrounds that which is non-matter and it alters its function of knowing.
If the command to keep lent was heard by Adam in
The Church Fathers have called lent the foundation of all virtues, because through lent our mind is kept in its appropriate purity and awareness, and the heart is kept in its appropriate astuteness and spirituality. He who shakes the foundation of virtues, shakes their entire building.
Let us be attentive to these words of the Church Fathers and let us keep the lent so that we may become worthy of its fruits!