THE CHURCH has specially provided the time of the Great Fast so we can gather our thoughts, re-focus our attention on God, and prepare ourselves to greet the day of Holy Pascha. By way of the Fast, we seek to grow in what is lacking and to fill in the blanks within our spiritual lives, which have suffered so much due to distractions and cares of life.
- Abstinence from meat. Note that the minimum prescription is the abstain from meat on the following days:
- Monday to Friday in the first week of the Great Fast;
- Wednesdays and Fridays in the other weeks of the Great Fast;
- Monday to Friday in Holy Week;
- Abstinence from meat and dairy products is prescribed for the first day of the Great Fast (Monday), and Holy Friday.Note that some Christians abstain from meat throughout the Great Fast, from Meatfare Sunday to Holy Pascha.
- Abstinence from other things. It is good to choose a particular everyday or occasional thing from which to abstain during the Great Fast, i.e. coffee, milk, cheese, eggs, alcohol, sweets, T.V., music, movies, etc.
- Fasting. To fast means to reduce our intake of food or to simplify meals to the point that we still experience hunger. On fast days 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 everyday – preferably in a meditative fashion by which you concentrate on the meaning of the words.
- Pray and Spend Time in Silence – In addition to the Prayer of Saint Ephrem, dedicate more time in prayer than usual, using a prayerbook, Akathist, Way of the Cross, Rosary, or Jesus Prayer.
- Holy Eucharist – Attend Divine Liturgy and Presanctified Liturgy. Receive Communion with renewed devotion 2-3 times a week.
- Attend Lenten Services – Plan to attend Lenten services offered at the parish: Vespers, Presanctified, Liturgy for the Departed, Way of the Cross, Sixth Hour, etc.
- Do something good for others. Prayer for 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 do your penance!