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I have received numerous requests for a copy of the sermon I gave regarding fasting for Great Lent.  As requested, here is the sermon:

The question of how to fast generates quite a bit of discussion and confusion, especially since there are so many different opinions from different priests on the rules of fasting.  Life in today’s world can make keeping the fast difficult for many of us. To help clarify this, I offered 3 levels of fasting that hopefully will provide each of us with a way to use the Lenten period to prepare for the joyous Resurrection of our Lord and Savior.

I base these 3 levels on the 3 pillars of a proper approach to Great Lent:  Prayer, Fasting, and Giving Alms.

LEVEL  1 – This is most strict and reflects a strict adherence to the established rules of fasting.

·         No partaking of any animal products (animals being defined as having blood), so this includes most fish.

·          No partaking of any food derived from animals, such as eggs, cheese, milk, etc.

·          No partaking of alcoholic beverages and olive oil; however, olive oil and wine ARE allowed on Saturday and Sunday. 

This type of fast is advisable only for those whose lifestyle allows for such a rigid restriction of food.  Additionally, just as one cannot immediately participate in a 20 mile marathon without adequate training, this type of fast also requires “training” to be able to endure this level of strictness.  This type of fasting is inadvisable for those with demanding jobs, those undergoing stressful situations,  the elderly or those taking life-saving medications.

LEVEL  2 – Not as strict as level one, this level focuses more on portion control rather than adherence to strict fasting rules.  During Lent the Holy Fathers tell us to limit our intake of food in an effort to practice the discipline of the body and avoid the vice of gluttony.  By leaving the table a bit hungry we have a constant and very real reminder of where our focus should be – on God.  This was the primary reason for the institution of the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, which was to offer the faithful the sustenance of Holy Communion to help them keep up their strength and perseverance during the Lenten period.  So, for example, instead of having two or three pieces of large chicken breasts, have just one.  This type of fast is more appropriate for those with demanding jobs or stressful situations since it offers them the nutrition they need but are still able to observe the essence of the Lenten fast.

LEVEL 3 – Not everyone’s situation is conducive to keeping a strict fast.  This includes not only those with demanding situations but also those new to the practice of fasting.  At this level the focus is primarily on the other two aspects of Lent:  prayer and the giving of alms or charity.  To the extent possible, try to keep the fast on Wednesday and Friday at either a level 1 or level 2, but put increased effort on prayer and diligently explore ways to donate your time and talent to works of charity.  This could include volunteering at activities such as a soup kitchen, food pantry or lending closet.

Some additional thoughts:

If you are taking medication or have dietary requirements from your doctor then you have permission to take the medication or eat (within reason) what is required before receiving Holy Communion. Holy Communion is not to be viewed as something you take in place of medication. The Church works in concert with science for the benefit of both our health and our salvation.

All of us are capable of keeping the intent of Great Lent through one of these levels and I encourage us all to devote ourselves to this most important time of the Church year, the preparation to meet our Lord at the culmination of our salvation – His glorious Resurrection.  Please don’t hesitate to call me or email me with any questions to help guide you in getting the most out of Lent and Holy Week.

In the Service of our Lord

Fr Angelo Maggos

Greek Orthodox 101: How Is Communion Prepared?

Every week, people around the world receive Holy Communion as a sacred part of the Orthodox faith, but how is it prepared? What are the steps and rituals that must be performed to transfigure the wine and bread into holiness? What happens if a fly lands in the Communion wine?

All those answers and more await in Part Two of our multi-part series exploring the secrets and history behind why the Greek Orthodox Church does things the way they do.

None, the fastest growing religion

We’ve all seen it.  The form that asks “What is your religious affiliation?”   And on it is the choice “NONE”.  According to the recent Pew Forum on Religion, NONE is the fastest growing “religion” with most identifying themselves as SBNR - Spiritual but not religious.  (http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/)  Orthodoxy’s version of this is OBNR.  I’ll let you figure that one out.

Regarding religion and church, Americans seem to be echoing Europe.   When the topic of religion does come up, the discussion is no longer about which church I should attend or which religion I should practice.   Rather, the question is whether it’s even worthy of meaningful discussion.  Now that’s not to say that there aren’t thousands of devout Christians, but there are many who feel they have outgrown what Karl Marx dubbed “the opium of the masses.”

As a degreed engineer, before the priesthood I spent my life in a corporate setting.  We looked for truth only in what could be studied, analyzed and proven.  Religion had its place and was fine as long as it did not interfere with my daily duties and desires, which was work and play.  Sure, I enjoyed the customs and symbolism that came with Orthodoxy, but I did not sacrifice much of my personal being into the faith.  I saw myself as the solution to my own problems and happiness. As my father would say – the captain of my own destiny. 

But now here I am, an Orthodox priest.  With a deeper and more complete understanding of the place and importance of Christianity in my life, and a love of the beautiful Orthodox faith.  The idea of being SBNR is now totally alien.  However, before I could get to this point in my life, the biggest hurdle was not which church or religion I should practice, but the more basic question of “Who is right?”

Are Marx and Nietzsche correct in that God is dead and religion is an opium created by man to help alleviate the suffering of humanity?  Are St Basil and Tillich correct when they state that the ultimate purpose of Man’s existence is the recovery of our immortality by being in communion with God, and that the Eucharist is the medicine by which we achieve immortality?

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Which brings me to the point of this blog series.  To explore and discuss these points so that we all may either use our God-endowed reason to figure this out for ourselves, or to properly, intelligently, and humbly relate to those who struggle with the meaning and purpose of Christianity, and answer the question of how is the Church our ship to salvation.  My hope is that this blog will lead to many avenues of discussion and I welcome any and all comments…especially those who are in the “None” category.