Lent is not just days when a person needs to give up animal food. At this time, everyone should cleanse their spiritual world from the filth and filth of everyday sin, which we do not notice.
Lent is a long period of abstinence from many things. This is a time of repentance, prayers and fellowship with God. Jesus Christ spent these months and a half in the desert, but for us this test is not so severe.
Archbishop of Berlin and Germany Mark on the joy of fasting
For many, Lent is a time, frankly, hard and sad. And statistics from year to year shows a sad result: only 3-5% of those who consider themselves Orthodox are fasting, and that is not always strict. Why do people not see the joy of fasting? And what is it, this joy? How is it that those who have never fasted dare to fast? We are talking about this with Bishop Mark (Arndt), Archbishop of Berlin and Germany.
- Hello, dear readers and viewers of the Internet portal “Orthodoxy.Ru. " Today our guest is Vladyka Mark, Archbishop of Berlin-Germany and Great Britain. Vladyka, our program will be broadcast during Lent. And therefore, the theme of today's meeting is Lent.
Fasting is a time filled with special triumph, special content and special meaning. It is abstinence and limitation of oneself. But for many today, abstinence is associated with something negative, sad, causes despondency. Vladyka, how to hold a post so that it is perceived as being not sadness, but joy?
- Firstly, I would correct your words a little: fasting cannot be called a restriction. On the contrary, it is liberation. Exemption from that unnecessary heaviness, unnecessary burden that everyone has. Freedom from the severity of bodily, of course, but also spiritual, too - we are freed from the burden of our sins. Fasting is the most favorable time for our salvation, this is the time when we pay special attention to the spiritual side of our lives. And when we are freed from bodily heaviness, the spirit of man is freed for spiritual work.
Unfortunately, not every lay person will be able to attend all the Lenten services, but even those that he can attend, hearing the words of worship, listening to them, experiencing them, is incredibly enriched. And even if someone does not understand everything, as it seems to him, but what he perceived is still spiritually significant to a tremendous extent.
The services of Lent are so theologically rich! They help to understand the meaning of the post.
The Holy Fathers left us enormous spiritual wealth - these wonderful services of Lent. They are so full of theological meaning! They lead us to death - to the death of the godmother, which our Savior experienced for us, and to the two genera, so to speak, the death that we experience.
Firstly, we have the opportunity to be cleansed of the sinful stratifications of our conscience, so that at any moment we will be ready to pass into the hands of God, into another world. But this is the death that we wish for our sins, this is the withering away of man from everything sinful and communion with all that is bright, divine, heavenly. If we perceive this time of fasting in this way, then this is a time of great joy, joy that we can consciously experience every day. Surviving the approach of a new day - a new time for repentance, which is given to us. But also experience the anticipation of universal resurrection. It is no coincidence that universal resurrection is celebrated before the Resurrection of Christ. Although it is caused precisely by the resurrection of the Savior and there is a causal connection, but nevertheless we experience it a week before the Resurrection of Christ - this is the resurrection of Lazarus, which reminds us of our universal resurrection. So if we correctly delve into the content of fasting services and the meaning of fasting, then it will be great joy and liberation for us.
- Vladyka, polls conducted both in Russia and around the world show that not many people fast. In Russia, as in previous years, about 3% of Russians who consider themselves Orthodox will fast more or less strictly during the present Great Lent. The virtue of abstinence is not particularly popular. Why so, lord?
- This is primarily due to ignorance of the post. And misunderstanding - and its meaning, and its form. The meaning really remains hidden for those people who do not attend the Lenten services, do not delve into their essence, their content. And then the whole post at best turns into some form of gymnastics. This applies to the spiritual side of fasting. And if we talk about the physical side, then people do not fast because they do not understand that in fasting they are freed from their bodily load, from what they absolutely do not need, and learn to dominate matter. Recall: when creating the world, God made man to be a master, that is, to dominate, rule, over his nature. And we see how many and many people today become slaves of matter - slaves, first of all, of their passions. These are those who cannot seem to free themselves from smoking, from not eating much, and so on. and so on. There are a lot of such moments in our lives when it seems to us that we will not master this and this ... I know from confession how many people struggle with a certain passion, but it all seems to them that it is impossible to defeat it.
My spiritual mentor didn’t eat anything for exactly 40 days in every post - and lived to a very old age.
In fact, a person, when he delves into the essence of fasting, when he practices it, becomes so joyful that he cannot live without it. These are prejudices - to believe that people cannot live without such food, without such food. When I was on Athos, my spiritual leader fasted every fast for exactly 40 days - and he lived to a very old age. And he strictly fasted: he didn’t eat at all. Only drank very thin tea - and that’s it. And I know other people who practice this too. Well, maybe not 40 days, but for quite some time.
I remember how one of the parishioners, whom I persuaded to fast, thanked me at the end of the post, saying: “I am so glad, so happy!” So a person, when he understands what and why he is doing, can do a lot.
It is the same with prayer. When a person does not pray or prays for five minutes, he cannot appreciate the power of prayer, he cannot appreciate the joy that grows from it. And so he will teleport - perhaps his whole life, if he does not have a push that will lead him to try to pray for at least once for real. There are many aspects that require, above all, an open heart.
I will tell you a case that impressed me very much. In our parish there were several Greek families who went to our church only because we live according to the Orthodox calendar, and not according to the Roman Catholic one. They didn’t understand anything except “Hallelujah” and “These are the despots,” but they walked because they knew that everything was right with us. And on Friday of the first week of the week, a Greek woman, who, as I knew, worked in a factory and had very hard physical work, told me (this is not part of the confession, it was just a conversation): "Vladyka, I drank water on Wednesday." I thought I didn’t understand something — I don’t speak Greek very well — and asked again: “What did you say?” She repeats: “I drank water on Wednesday.” I ask in bewilderment: “Do you want to say that you haven’t eaten all week and haven’t drunk?” - “Well, of course!” Here is the answer: “Well, of course!” A woman who is working hard. I then realized that a person can do a lot if he only wants to.
About 20 years ago, with Great Lent, we introduced the service of the Presanctified Gifts, evening service, but our Synod determined that anyone who wants to receive communion should fast from the previous midnight until evening. I announced this to everyone and expected no one to come. People have come! People who, as I know, work in some kind of office, where everyone smokes and stuff. They abstain all day, come to confession in the evening, take communion. This is such a joy! And this is only experience can give. Do you understand ?! Of course, those who have not experienced this will not understand this.
We need to decide to "jump across the river." That's how St. Mary of Egypt
So, I think, the trouble here is precisely that many are not ready to take a step. Jump over the river. That's how St. Mary of Egypt jumped over the Jordan and became a saint from a harlot - so many of us have to do.
- And there are some, perhaps ascetic exercises that will allow a person to slowly, but still overcome indecision and develop a willingness to “jump across the river”?
- First of all, it is a prayer. When a person is diligent in prayer, then in bodily fasting he will be ready for the feat. When he sees how much mind and spirit are truly made free, he will appreciate it.
So I remembered those unfortunate people who cannot quit smoking. I told them: “Try at least on fasting days - on Monday, Wednesday and Friday - to abstain from smoking. This is the beginning". And many were able to overcome this passion within themselves. Food should be the same.
In our monastery, many of the nuns adhere to this rule: on fasting days they don’t take any food at all, except in the evening they have a small meal, and they don’t eat anything all day. And this, of course, contributes to the fact that a person can evaluate his strength, see what is possible for him, what is impossible.
- Vladyka, you said that one who fasts correctly experiences joy. There are also such words - in stichera, which is sung in the Lenten days: “Fast fasting ...” And we wish each other this during fasting. Please remind us all what these words mean: “Fast fasting.”
- I didn’t especially think about it, but, I believe, first of all, this means this: we will refrain from eating our neighbor. One of the stichera before the beginning of fasting even says that this is the most difficult, maybe a virtue that a person can achieve.
“Fasting with a pleasant post” also means that in fasting we will draw spiritual strength for spiritual development. In order for us not to stand still, but for each post to be a step of the ladder leading to Christ and to our resurrection.
- In the prayer of the Monk Ephraim the Syrian, such words: "Spirit of idleness, despondency, amorousness and idleness, do not give me." Why is it that prayer specifically addresses deliverance from such sins? After all, we know that this is not the whole list of vices ...
- I think that all other sins are somehow related to those listed here. After looking at each separate “article”, so to speak, mentioned in this prayer, we will see that it carries with it a whole series of other sins. Idleness very quickly leads a person to abandon the struggle against sin, very quickly leads him to condemn his neighbor ... - one after another. These are, perhaps, the centers of all that we need to keep in mind when we come to grips with our sins.
- Vladyka, in conclusion of our conversation, I would like to ask you to give any advice to our readers and viewers on these Lenten days.
- First of all, I wish everyone to experience fasting for themselves. So that all Christians try to fast honestly. There are, of course, patients who are given fasting relief - to the extent that it is justified and necessary, and not just by imagination or of their own free will. This should always be discussed with the confessor.
There is no victory without struggle. But we want victory
So that each of us abandons something that is especially dear to him. It does not have to be food, for someone - a TV, for someone - some games, etc. I would wish that every Christian honestly embarks on a conscious struggle. Because without struggle there is no victory, as many of the fathers say. And we want victory - and we can’t get it in a cheap way. Therefore, we need to work.
I wish everyone to be enriched spiritually. And those who work and cannot attend services, at least aggravate their rule of prayer, spiritual reading and thus would gain something for the soul. For the soul to come out enriched from fasting. And then this post will be truly an achievement for everyone.
- Vladyka, thank you for being a guest of our editorial office.
Fasting is not for wimps, I'm sure Andrei Muzolf, a teacher at the Kiev Theological Seminary.
- Andrei, help answer readers' questions about the growing troubles in Lent. It is believed that it was during this period that unforeseen problems and difficulties piled on fasting people. For example, a reader’s question: this year I decided to fast, but I started to have a lot of trouble, some kind of obsession: my husband broke his arm, I was hurt badly. How can this be explained?
- Undoubtedly: the fact that a person has decided on such a serious step as fasting will be a considerable irritant for the “prince of this world”, who by all means seeks to lead a person away from the only true path - the path to salvation, which, in fact, should become us Great Lent.
But at the same time, not everything that happens to us in our lives - especially in such a difficult (meaning spiritually difficult) period of Lent - must be attributed to any temptations, and even more so to the direct manifestations of demonic powers. A lot depends on us, on our inner disposition and attitude to these or those extraordinary things.
If we perceive such troubles (such as injuries that happen to us during fasting) as one of the types of temptations, we all the more should try to control ourselves and refrain from grumbling. Priest Martyr Peter Damaskin says: "All temptation, like healing, is allowed by God to cure a weak soul." Therefore, if we want the period of Great Lent to benefit not only the physical benefits that the normal diet provides, but also the spiritual benefits above all, we should take all the turmoil that occurs precisely as attempts to heal our immortal soul.
“Is it true that all evil is activated in fasting - and a person is subjected to more temptations? How to survive all this? Maybe the post is not for everyone? ”Please help our readers to sort it out.
- As already mentioned above, fasting is the path to God, an attempt to return a person immersed in his own sins to his Heavenly Father. And it is not surprising that such an attempt is perceived “with hostility” by fallen angels, for whom any spiritual joy is another reason for envy, which, according to the Book of Wisdom of Solomon, actually caused Dennitsa to fall away from God. But with all such attempts by demons to tear us away from fellowship with God, we must remember the words of the holy apostle Paul: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Therefore, no demonic power, if we do not give it the possession of the slightest corner of our soul, can not overcome in us the action of the grace of God. God knows the strengths and capabilities of each of us and will never give us a cross that we could not afford. Fasting is not at all some new setting. According to St. Basil the Great, fasting is an ancient gift of God to humanity, elevating people above heaven. People have been saved by fasting and prayer for more than a dozen centuries. And this is the best argument confirming the importance of fasting in the spiritual life of an Orthodox Christian.
- "How not to succumb to panic and not be provoked during this period? From the first days of the post, anxiety began about the price increase, the situation in the country ... "Andrei, how to resist panic?
- If during the post we are interested in more price increases, then the post has not yet come for us. Rev. Ephraim the Syrian says: “Fasting does not love the world, nor that of the world,” and if we care more about the worldly than the spiritual, then we are still far from fasting. The Holy Fathers advise: if we have any troubles or problems on our hearts, we should not try to deal with them ourselves, but ask God for help, recalling the words of the holy prophet and psalmist David: “Put your cares on the Lord, and He will support you. He will never let the righteous hesitate ”(Psalm 55:22). But if we, while standing in a church for worship or praying at home, think about prices or exchange rates, then we are not giving God the opportunity to act in our lives, therefore, that spiritual spring has not yet come to us (this is the name for fasting in liturgical chants Lean Triodi), which should change our lives from the inside.
- What is the difference between fasting time and regular time?
“We must remember that fasting is not an end in itself.” Fasting, as we said above, is only a means, a path to that which is more elevated than fasting itself: fasting is the path to Easter, the path towards the Risen Christ. And therefore, fasting time is important for us as a period of increased self-control and enhanced self-preparation for such a meeting. Each of us, of course, to the best of our spiritual strength, must make every effort to adequately meet the Resurrection of His Creator and fully “enter into the joy of our Lord” (see: Matthew 25:21).
- Still there is such a question: “All the household members against me fasting, they say: God is in the soul. I depend on them as I eat together. How to be I may be in trouble due to the post. ”
- Rev. Theodore Studite wrote that the true fast, benefiting the soul, lies in a peaceful, meek and compassionate disposition to others. If we eat only bread and drink only water, but at the same time there is no peace in our heart, this is not the fast that the Lord calls us to. The holy apostle James says: “Show me your faith without your works, but I will show you my faith from my works” (James 2:18). Therefore, our faith should be manifested primarily in our actions towards others, and not in any self-restraints.
There is the following story in ancient Paterik: a certain ascetic achieved such a high level of asceticism when his heart was already very close to pride, and God revealed to him that two people live in one city, far surpassing him with the sanctity of his life. The ascetic, wanting to see these people with his own eyes, went to that city and, at the direction of God, met two women about whom it was revealed to him that they were the ones who surpassed his spiritual exploits. At first, the monk was embarrassed: how can women living in the world be holier than him - the old ascetic who spent more than a dozen years in fasting and prayer? But later the ascetic realized that these two women surpassed him in that they had never quarreled with anyone, but always kept peace in their hearts. Thus, maintaining peace in the family may in some cases be even our best sacrifice to God than fasting. In addition, if we show love to our loved ones, perhaps it is she who, faster than any persuasion and stories, will make them our like-minded people.
Everyone knows that Jesus ate almost nothing during the fast, therefore traditions oblige every Orthodox Christian to remove animal food and any products containing animal components from the diet.
This is the main test, because a person is accustomed to fatty and tasty food, although there is always a way out of the situation. There are lots of delicious products that fit the rules of absolutely any post, including Great.
Sin is considered not only the use of forbidden foods, but also overeating, turning into gluttony. In the post you can not overeat, as well as excessively rest. Refuse from idleness, from gluttony, from any manifestation of such a terrible sin as gluttony.
The same goes for fun. No one is safe from hearing a funny joke in the team. Having a good mood is wonderful, and Lent does not prohibit it. He forbids excessive fun, which contradicts the difficult time of Jesus Christ, starving alone.
Smiles and a positive attitude are wonderful, because despondency is also a sin. But during Lent, you should refuse to watch comedies.
Obviously, you must stop smoking and drinking alcohol during this period of time. Self-destruction goes against the charters of the church and scripture, especially during Lent. Voluntary refusal will cleanse not only your body, but also your soul. Make yourself exclude cigarettes, alcohol and other bad habits from your life for at least this month and a half.
Do not be angry for a reason and without it. God who forgave his wrongdoers and was kind to everyone without exception. Live good even where he has no place - only in this case you will gain enlightenment and become closer to the Creator.
Many forget that you can’t do everything just for your own sake. Lent teaches us to act together with loved ones and loved ones in order to find a way to God together. Help everyone who is dear to you, guide them on the righteous path and give true advice. Refuse selfishness and profit only for yourself, because love for one's neighbor can teach us more than the strongest love for oneself.
We wish you good luck not only during Lent, but also any other. May these periods be for you a time when God will be near you, and not far from you. Read prayers, be kind and merciful. Good luck and don’t forget to click on the buttons and