THE CHURCH has specially provided the time of GREAT LENT so we can gather our thoughts, so we can focus, and so we can prepare ourselves to greet the day of Pascha (Easter). By way of Great Lent, we must try to grow in what is lacking and to fill in the blanks within our spiritual lives, which have suffered so much due to life’s messes, distractions, and laziness.
Abstain from meat
In addition to Fridays, consider abstaining from meat two days (Wed/Fri) or even three days (Mon/Wed/Fri) a week. Some Christians abstain from meat throughout Lent, from Meatfare Sunday to Holy Pascha. In addition, it is good to choose a particular everyday or occasional thing from which to abstain during the 40 days of Lent and Holy Week, i.e. coffee, milk, cheese, eggs, alcohol, sweets, T.V., music, movies, etc.
To fast means to reduce our intake of food and to simplify meals, to the point that we still experience hunger. At least on Fridays, eat only once or twice per day. Replace heavy meals with a light menu: soup, salad or fruit, bread and water.
Read the Four Gospels.
During Great Lent, read all four Gospels.
Refrain from superfluous meetings and activities – from all that distracts.
This includes social parties with dancing. You do not need to abandon relaxation, of course, but you should choose such forms of relaxation that do not disturb the peace in your soul. Good examples would be walks and trips to the countryside, mountains, etc.
Read the Prayer of Saint Ephrem every day –
Preferably in a meditative fashion by which you concentrate on the meaning of the words. You should meditate mainly on one part of the prayer. For example, you could focus on the phrase “Lord and Master of my Life” or on Christ as the Alpha and Omega of your life – its purpose, love and goal. Feel this section of the prayer for at least a short moment.
Pray and Spend Time in Silence –
In addition to the Prayer of Saint Ephrem, dedicate at least 10 minutes for further prayer, using a prayer book, Akathist, Way of the Cross or rosary. This is a minimum, 30 minutes total would be better (15 in the morning, 15 in the evening). It is important not to miss even one day throughout Great Lent. Select a comfortable place and a comfortable position for prayer. At the end of your prayer time, sit or stand silently and attentively, as if you were listening to silence. Let the silence penetrate your heart. Conclude by praying spontaneously to God with whatever words come to you. Then, with silence in your heart, return to work, trying to preserve this ‘sound’ as long as possible.
Holy Eucharist –
Every Sunday during Great Lent, attend the Divine Liturgy and be on time for the service. If possible, receive Holy Communion with renewed devotion twice (or three times) a week: at the Sunday Divine Liturgy and at weekday Pre-Sanctified Services.
Attend the Lenten Mission and Services –
Mark your calendar and plan to attend the parish Lenten Mission – whether in English or Ukrainian. Also, plan to attend some of the Lenten Services offered at the parish: Vespers, Presanctified, Liturgy for the Departed, Way of the Cross, Lenten Sixth Hour, etc.
Do something good for others.
Prayer for others – those who are suffering illness or trial, and those who have fallen asleep. Visit someone who is a shut-in, in a care facility or in hospital. Do something special for the church (cleaning, singing, volunteering, serving, teaching, or something else).
Make a Good Confession –
Take the time to make a good examination of conscience. Decide to do better. Identify concretely how you will alter your lifestyle. Make a good Confession and remember to do your penance!