What are you doing for Lent?

Some friends of various religions were talking about “giving something up for Lent,” and they asked me if the Orthodox will be observing Lent this year. Here’s how I answered:

We’ll kick off Lent on Monday, February 27, with lots of services morning and evening, beginning our reading of Genesis and Proverbs to finish by early April, while reading the entire Psalter twice a week. That’s several hours a day for those who can make it, though most of us have day jobs and families so folks come when they can.

After Clean Week, we back off almost to our regular schedule; most evenings Vespers is short, but two nights a week we’ll have Communion, and Saturdays and Sundays are pretty full. Then it’s Palm Sunday and Holy Week and we do massive amounts of services till Pascha on Sunday, April 16.

Privately, a lot of folks will be reading some book of spiritual discipline. And folks who are not regularly at confession will be taking advantage of the season’s emphasis on intention by confessing and receiving spiritual direction in preparation for Communion.

We’ll be returning to foundations in our teaching on prayer — all those extended services are meant to be a kind of launchpad for beginning or reviving a private rule of prayer and self-inventory. After all, fasting without prayer is what the demons do, and they’re better at it than we are since they never eat or sleep.

Almsgiving is one of the Christian essentials I always preach on, but it’s emphasized more during Lent; a season of repentance that doesn’t touch your wallet is pretty shallow.

Also, we’ll be abstaining from some foods.