An Orthodox Inspired Lent

Someone asked me recently if I was still updating the blog so I took it as a subtle hint that I should post something. Thankfully, it’s time for my annual Lent post! Four times a year I love to over-analyze my life and create lofty goals: beginning of the year, Lent, beginning of the school year, and Advent. So if you were hoping for cute family photos and funny stories, prepare to be disappointed!

Since I made spiritual growth the keystone of my New Year’s resolutions, I figured I would just tweak what I was already doing, but then Tony asked if we should do something “hard-core”, like another St. Hildegarde Fast or Whole 30 or Exodus 90. “Maybe an Exodus 90 on top of a St. Hildegard Fast???” Everyone within five miles of our house heard me exclaim, “HELL NO”, before I clarified that while I didn’t want to do anything gimmicky, I would consider doing an Orthodox fast with him, as it’s something I’ve looked into previous years, but ran away from screaming because of the absence of cheese. He was game, so I did a bit more research.

For the last few years, I didn’t want to “create” some unique Lenten experience. I just wanted to be told ” do this” by the Church, and do it. Following the fasting requirements of the Orthodox is in the same vein. I’m not creating something from scratch, or following a trendy diet. Tony and I will just fast the way the Orthodox church recommends, with a few tweaks. From what I’ve read, it seems like the strictest fast requirements are only followed by monks, while lay Orthodox Christians are advised to modify the fast with spiritual guidance, or follow the guidelines to the best of their ability. I’m not sure how much of the guidelines are binding under the pain of sin. (In Roman Catholic tradition, Catholics must fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from meat all Fridays in Lent under pain of sin [with exceptions for age, health, etc.].)

Unlike the Orthodox, our fast will start on Ash Wednesday, and we won’t fast on Sundays or first class feasts in Lent. But otherwise, we’ll be giving up meat, fish with backbones, eggs, dairy, olive oil, and wine. We will try to stick to the two small meals and one regular sized meal, but if I’m feeling hangry, weak or too tired, I will probably increase the amount or frequency of my meals. We’re not making the kids follow the same fast, but we’re all giving up sweets together as usual. I will keep drinking my morning coffee with dairy free creamer and my afternoon Coke Zero because everyone has limits; I drew the line at caffeine.

I’m not taking this on because last year Lent was so easy. I fully expect to slip up, make excuses, and binge on sweets and/ or wine while hiding in my bedroom at some point after a rough day. But you don’t get stronger by lifting the same weight or decreasing it; you need to add more weight to the bar. As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I wanted to do a little bit more fasting year round and so far I’ve totally sucked in that regard. I’m hoping Lent will help me develop the willpower to fast and deny myself things even after Easter. To help plan meals I’m relying on Fasting As A Family: Planning and Preparing Delicious Lenten Meals, by Melissa Naasko. It’s been super helpful from a practical and spiritual perspective.

In the prayer realm, I’m just going to work at the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I’ve made some progress, and I just want to keep heading in the right direction. I’m also hoping to finish The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila on Libra Vox.

I don’t have any specific goals for almsgiving. We are going to give up shopping on Sundays (this could wind up being harder than the fasting); not sure if we could somehow figure out how much time and money we save by doing this and putting it towards something worthwhile? We’ll see.

I’m not making any social media goals, as I don’t feel like I need to cut it out of my life more than I have, and I also don’t see blogging increasing any time soon either. Sorry! My nightly journaling seems to scratch the itch for sharing information about my life, even though the small notebook can provide me with zero likes, comments, and shares. I’m also working on three talks for upcoming trips to Kansas City and Des Moines in March, so all my free time for the next few weeks is spoken for unfortunately.

But January and February have been pretty quiet anyway, so you’re not missing out on too much here. Have a penitential Lent everyone!


  1. I’m giving up milk in my coffee for lent, did not occur to me that I could sub something dairy free!!! But, as this is my main penance this Lent, I’m going to switch it to drinking coffee black so as to avoid any ambiguity lol. Wishing you a fruitful Lent!

  2. Byzantine Catholics have similar Lenten fasting rules. The bare minimum is no meat, eggs, or dairy on the first day of Lent and Good Friday. (I’m not sure offhand about fish, I don’t cook fish at home ever so I don’t worry about that part). And then no meat on all the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent.
    In some ways, I think it might be easier to do the strict fasting for all of Lent, because it would be easier to prepare and buy special ingredients (vegan “butter”, non-dairy milk substitute, learn to make “cheese” from cashews, etc) that would be used up over the whole of Lent and not just used on two days.

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