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St. Thomas Facebook Page

8 hours ago

St. Thomas Orthodox Church

ASH WEDNESDAY
(Wednesday, February 26)

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” (Joel 2: 12-13)

Yes, I do know that it is “not” Ash Wednesday, or the beginning of Lent, for us Orthodox Christians today. Nonetheless, the above-quoted passage is, indeed, part of our Church’s reading for today, Cheesefare Wednesday. Because this week, or Cheesefare Week (Maslenitsa in Russian), the week preceding Lent, is liturgically already preparing us for the season of fasting and “return to the Lord” that is Lent. In fact, today, on Cheesefare Wednesday, the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, and the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem is read throughout the services of the Hours or the Divine Office (with great prostrations), according to the order prescribed by the Typikon for this day, so as to prepare us for the upcoming season of Lent.

So, as I observe Latin Christians walking about in the streets today, with dark marks on their foreheads, let me be inspired for our upcoming Lent, which is beginning next Monday. The ashes, from which Latin Christians get their marks on their foreheads today, are from their burnt Palm-Sunday branches of the previous year, reminding them (and me, as it happens) of our readiness to walk the cross-carrying journey up until and through our Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem (on Palm Sunday), and His ensuing Passion or suffering during Great Week (or “Strastnaya Nedelya” in Russian), seven weeks from now.

Today let me feel inspired, rather than alienated, by the tradition of other Christians (of “Ash Wednesday”), as I prepare for Lent. Let me begin to return to the Lord “with all my heart,” in heartfelt prayer, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,” as our Church’s reading for today reminds me.

(Happy Wednesday, from NY! Above is a picture of snowdrops in my mother's garden, here in Nyack, NY. Please NOTE: If you want some extra daily reading, for upcoming Lent, you can get the eBook, for your Kindle, of "Lent with Sister Vassa," on amazon.com. Search for that title there.)
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A very excellent explanation of the very misunderstood discipline of fasting.

"The spiritual discipline of fasting is not an end in itself focused primarily on our diets. It is simply a tool for shifting the focus away from ourselves and toward our Lord and our brothers and sisters in whom we encounter Him each day. If we distort fasting into a private religious accomplishment that we use to show ourselves, others, and even God how holy we are, we would do better not to fast at all. This spiritual discipline helps us to share more fully in the self-emptying love of Christ as we turn from addiction to satisfying ourselves to freely serving others. That kind of love is essential for growing in union with our neighbors and with the Lord. It is a crucial dimension of what it means to participate in the deified humanity of the Savior Who offered up Himself in order to draw all people into the eternal life that He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit." - Fr. Philip LeMasters
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