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Author Topic: How to observe Lent as a Protestant?  (Read 4166 times) Average Rating: 0
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ImperfectRose
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« on: January 24, 2011, 01:56:17 AM »

Hi, I'm currently a Protestant and will be converting to Orthodoxy in summer '12. I was just wondering, since Lent is about a month and a half away... how should I observe Lent? I won't be able to go to any Orthodox churches or anything like that for it, but I was just wondering. I'm non-denominational with a bit of Baptist roots so I've never gone through something like Lent before.

Am I allowed to not eat/drink certain things, what's the purpose of Lent, how do I observe it as a Protestant? I know nothing about it except for the fact that it's a major time in the Orthodox church, so any tips would be wonderful.

Thank you so much.
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« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2011, 02:09:53 AM »

Fasting without the guidance of a priest can be dangerous both physically and spiritually.  The purpose of Lent is the preparation for Pascha (Easter), the 40 days symbolize a) the 40 days Christ spent fasting in the wilderness, b) the 40 years Israel spent wandering in the desert, and c) the 40 days the Earth was covered in the waters (or rather these last two Old Testament events were a foreshadowing of the fast of our Lord).  As with any fast it is more important to focus on prayer, alms-giving, and abstaining from sin (most especially sins like sniping, gossiping, and in-fighting) than to worry too much over food consumed.  As a Protestant you would probably do well just to focus on those three than food, but try to avoid over-eating.

Once you are ready to begin converting to Orthodoxy and have access to a priest he will guide you in the best way to get into form for fasting.  Generally speaking Orthodox Christians will abstain from meat and dairy products, fish, wine and olive oil (with the latter three being allowed if certain feasts fall during the Great Fast).
« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 02:10:23 AM by FormerReformer » Logged

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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2011, 02:13:21 AM »

Honestly, I think that the strict practices of Lent are hard enough when you are Orthodox and can receive your strength from the Body and Blood of Christ. I can't imagine trying to keep it without even the aid of the services or fellowship with other Orthodox Christians. My advice to you is that you simply try to pray more during this time and perhaps give more alms to the poor. There will be plenty of time to struggle in future Lenten seasons with the guidance of a spiritual father and the aid of the Holy Mysteries.

But just to give you an idea on fasting practices, basically the whole time one is to eat no meat, dairy (eggs, cheese, milk, etc), any foods cooked in oil (for example no fried foods), and depending on who you ask no alcohol (but I doubt that will matter since you are underage). There are some days which allow for oil and wine in cooking, as well as a few days which allow for fish.

*edit* I see that there was another post that basically gave the same advice as me. So you have a consensus! Don't try to fast until you're a part of a church!
« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 02:16:12 AM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
Margaret S.
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« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2011, 03:32:02 AM »

I don't know if this will help but when I was an Anglican we 'kept' Lent by simplifying. We tried not to have treats and to save up the money spent on them to give to a good cause. We ate bread and soup for a lot of meals. We didn't go out to films or whatever. We added a little extra time to prayer. And so on. It's obviously not Orthodoxy or anything like it but the conscious simplification of your life can help bring you closer to God and you'll feel as if you've done something special with what is a very special time of year.  One of the loveliest things about Orthodoxy is the cycle of feasts and fasts so when the feasts come along remember to keep them too - even if only to remember in your heart that it's St Mary Magadelene's day or to buy yourself a wee bunch of grapes for the Transfiguration, etc. You do have to be Orthodox with a confessor to start fasting because that's part of a spiritual battle in which you need preparation and support but you don't have to be Orthodox to keep note of the days and be aware of the rhythm of the church's year which is joyful and will help you feel connected.

Regards,
Margaret in Edinburgh
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« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2011, 08:37:18 AM »

I tried doing Orthodox things before I could start attending services and moving toward converting.  It was my way of compromising to keep the family together.  It didn't work out so well.  Once while saying the Trisagon prayers I had what I can only describe is a demonic experience.  I was quite shaken.   I don't say it to be negative, just to be honest.   Your efforts and desires are commendable, just remember it will be a great battle.

I do think Margaret's ideas of simplifying are a great one.  I would also say concentrating on reading your Bible and praying more during Lent could only be profitable.   
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« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2011, 09:52:01 AM »

When I was at this point in my conversion, I used Lent as the motivation to "practice" fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. (Fasting includes increased prayer and almsgiving, by the way.)

Or just give up one thing that distracts you from God, maybe it's food, maybe TV, etc. If you've never observed Lent it might be a better place to start. Many Protestants observe Lent this way.

Also it may be a good time to get in the habit of praying in the morning and evening if you aren't already. Nothing elaborate or lengthy, just making it a habit will help down the road.

And during Lent there are many additional weekday services in the Church. Try to attend when you can. For instance, the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos is often served on Fridays, and Great Compline on Mondays. And finally, Holy Week (Palm Sunday to Pascha) has many beautiful (although long) services that everyone on earth should see.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 09:52:40 AM by bogdan » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2011, 10:04:58 AM »

May I also suggest to read, when you can, the scripture readings for the Lenten days.
Scripture Readings for Weekdays of Great Lent

And also the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian.

(start slow)
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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2011, 11:45:32 AM »

...perhaps give more alms to the poor...

This.  Giving of one's resources or time and energy to serve others is a beautiful offering to God.  My priest has told me that abstaining from food means nothing if I am not feeding others.  Abstaining from luxury means nothing if my neighbor remains in need.  Do be careful though.  As others have said, the fast is not something to try on your own.  I know of situations where even those in the Church are eased into it by their priests.  It is after all a spiritual battle, and not a diet.  Pray and know that God is pleased by a broken and contrite heart and not sacrifices in themselves.
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« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2011, 11:57:03 AM »

Quote
Fasting without the guidance of a priest can be dangerous both physically and spiritually
That's debatable at best, or just a myth (of the Frederica type, no less Wink at worst. )
Most people used to keep Lent back home, yet none sought "the guidance of a priest" in doing so.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 11:57:21 AM by augustin717 » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2011, 01:31:12 PM »

Quote
Fasting without the guidance of a priest can be dangerous both physically and spiritually
That's debatable at best, or just a myth (of the Frederica type, no less Wink at worst. )
Most people used to keep Lent back home, yet none sought "the guidance of a priest" in doing so.
But "back home" the people had the support and examples of their family and the community. Such is not the case in North America.

It's hard enough to be Orthodox here without the snarky comments about those who find the Orthodox faith later in life.
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« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2011, 03:12:20 PM »

I don't know if this will help but when I was an Anglican we 'kept' Lent by simplifying. We tried not to have treats and to save up the money spent on them to give to a good cause. We ate bread and soup for a lot of meals. We didn't go out to films or whatever. We added a little extra time to prayer. And so on. It's obviously not Orthodoxy or anything like it but the conscious simplification of your life can help bring you closer to God and you'll feel as if you've done something special with what is a very special time of year. 

Yes, this is basically what we did growing up Lutheran. My mother was very intentional about keeping Lent. We went to more services, spent extra time in prayer and Bible study, ate simply and saved our candy money to give to Lutheran World Relief or some such good cause. No movies or tv.
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« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2011, 08:41:04 PM »

Quote
Fasting without the guidance of a priest can be dangerous both physically and spiritually
That's debatable at best, or just a myth (of the Frederica type, no less Wink at worst. )
Most people used to keep Lent back home, yet none sought "the guidance of a priest" in doing so.
But "back home" the people had the support and examples of their family and the community. Such is not the case in North America.

It's hard enough to be Orthodox here without the snarky comments about those who find the Orthodox faith later in life.
OK then. AYSF angel
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« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2011, 10:00:20 PM »

Honestly, I think that the strict practices of Lent are hard enough when you are Orthodox and can receive your strength from the Body and Blood of Christ. I can't imagine trying to keep it without even the aid of the services or fellowship with other Orthodox Christians.

Could you imagine walking in the shoes of St. Mary of Egypt? 
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« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2011, 01:55:19 AM »

Could you imagine walking in the shoes of St. Mary of Egypt?

I think she's barefoot in the icons.
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« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2011, 02:35:58 AM »

Could you imagine walking in the shoes of St. Mary of Egypt?

I think she's barefoot in the icons.

 laugh
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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2011, 10:48:39 AM »

Could you imagine walking in the shoes of St. Mary of Egypt?

I think she's barefoot in the icons.

 laugh

LOL.  True the icons show her barefoot, but she also, from the stories, spent many years naked all alone in the desert before anyone finally came across her.   Now that I think about it, that is real deep imagery.
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« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2011, 12:11:02 PM »

May I add one more consideration to your fasting regimen? I think that being 16 and a half years old you may be inclined to make a serious and enthusiastic stab at fasting. It is very true that changes in your diet go hand in hand with prayer and alms giving. However, all of these things should be done without giving anyone offense or in a manner that attracts attention. Thus, if you and your family are invited to another for a meal, you should eat what is served without even any indication that you are making an exception to your fasting. Similarly, it would be good if you do not ask your parents to prepare special meals for you; you should eat what you are served but you could eat less. Since at your age your task is chiefly attending school, make a special effort to do the best that you can and complement that with volunteer work in service projects (your alms giving, instead of money). Show more love and understanding to your parents and friends and be patient with them. Thus, they will know you by your fruits. May the Lord bless your journey.
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« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2011, 10:09:02 PM »

Sometimes catechumens will observe some or all of the fast, but always under the guidance of their priest.
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« Reply #18 on: January 26, 2011, 10:04:24 AM »

Simply repentance--which is not despair, but rather turning away from your sins to Christ and His commandments. With this, there is also prayer and almsgiving. The Lenten fast is, first and foremost, a fast from sin and self-indulgence. Fasting from food is only a symbol of this. Lent is a call to return to Christ so that we might die to sin, but live to God.
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