Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cheese fare week

This week, the Holy Church calls Her children to prepare for the fast by abstaining from meat. Even though we are still celebrating the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, the divine services begin to have a solemn character, calling us all to repentance and cleansing of our souls.

Grant us humbly and in peace to pass through the days of cleansing that prepare us for the Fast. In Thine ineffable love for mankind, o Christ our God, destroy the wicked schemes of the enemy and preserve us all by Thy Cross, for Thou alone knowest the secrets of man’s heart.
Sedalen, Matins on Wednesday of Cheese week

On Wednesday and Friday this week, we make prostrations with the prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian, emphasising that our souls should already be fasting from sin. Although many people tend to over-indulge in cheese and eggs this week, this is not at all what the Church intended for us:

The grace of the holy Fast has begun to shine upon us, cleansing our unstable thoughts and driving away the darkness of our surfeiting. Let us, then, accept this grace with eager faith.
Ode 9 of the Canon, Matins on Wednesday of Cheese week

It is important to remember that the bodily virtue of fasting, although indispensable, is only a tool by which the Christian hopes to gain spiritual virtues:

If thou dost fast from food, my soul, yet dost not cleanse thyself from passions, thou dost rejoice in vain over thine abstinence. For if thy purpose is not turned toward amendment of life, as a liar thou are hateful in God’s sight, and thou dost resemble the evil demons who never eat at all. Do not by sinning make the fast worthless, but firmly resist all wicked impulses. Picture to thyself that thou are standing beside the crucified Saviour, or rather, that thou art thyself crucified with Him who was crucified for thee; and cry out to Him: Remember me, o Lord, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom.
Stihira, Matins on Wednesday of Cheese week

Read also the February “Shepherd” magazine from the Brotherhood of Saint Edward in the United Kingdom, which contains more materials on the approaching Great Lent.

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