Soorp Andon Juknavor
St. Anthony the Great, AD 251-356
Great Father of Monasticism
and keeper of a life of repentance
On the Prayer-rope (Arm. Aghotashar)

-St. Anthony is credited with helping invent
the Eastern prayer-rope for the Jesus Prayer:
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me a sinner."
1.  THE GREAT FAST IN BYZANTINE CHURCH TRADITION:

Theosis:  The Goal of Christian Life by Sub-Dn. Lazarus Der-Ghazarian    

The Ten Commandments:  A Short Guide for Preparation for Confession     

Developing Prayer in the Byzantine Tradition by Sub-Dn. Lazarus Der-Ghazarian  

Keeping the Fasts in the Byzantine Tradition by Sub-Dn. Lazarus Der-Ghazarian  

A Meditative Guide for Preparation for Confession    

A Guide to Praying the Psalter During the Great Fast      

On the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in Byzantine Church Tradition

On Christian Monasticism by Sub-Dn. Lazarus Der-Ghazarian

Unceasing Prayer from Fr. Thomas Hopko's "Rainbow Series" on the Orthodox Faith

Fasting from Fr. Thomas Hopko's Rainbow Series on the Orthodox Faith

Almsgiving from Fr. Thomas Hopko's Rainbow Series on the Orthodox Faith

Lessons from the Fathers on Fasting   

An Orthodox Commentary on the Ten Commandments by Archpriest Victor Potapav   


2.  THE GREAT FAST IN ARMENIAN CHURCH TRADITION:

Speaking to God from the Depths of the Heart  St. Gregory's Mystical Book of Prayer

Frequently Asked Questions about Great Lent by Fr. Daniel Findikyan

Great Fast Commemorations of the Armenian Church from the Domar

Great Week in the Armenian Church Tradition from the Domar

The Traditional Fasts in the Armenian Church by Abp. Malachias Ormanian

Keeping the Fasts in the Armenian Church by Sub-Dn. Lazarus Der-Ghazarian
            
Lenten Talk On the Parable of the Unjust Steward by Sub-Dn. Der-Ghazarian (2005)

Lenten Talk On Keeping a Daily Rule of Prayer by Sub-Dn. Der-Ghazarian (2007)       


3.  GREAT ASCETICS AND SPIRITUAL FATHERS OF THE EAST:

St. Anthony of the Desert  /  St. John of the Ladder  /  St. Basil the Great  /   

St. John the Golden-mouthed  /  St. Isaac the Syrian  /  St. Gregory of Narek  /  

St. Nerses the Gracefilled  /  St. Gregory Palamas  /  St. John Cassian  

(c) Copyright: 2001-2020, Lazarus Der-Ghazarian, looys.net, All Rights Reserved
You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood,
to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  
-1st Epistle of Saint Peter (2:5)

The period known in the West as Lent (from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “spring”)
is known in the Eastern Churches as the “Great Fast” (
Megali nisteia in Greek and
Medz bahk in Armenian). This title distinguishes it from the other penitential periods
of the liturgical year and emphasizes its preeminence as the “Fast of fasts.”  The
Great Fast is understood by Eastern Christians as a time of corporate repentance
through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

We can distinguish between the modern approach to this season, and the ancient,
canonical approach.  In the modern approach, similar to making a new year's
resolution, a Christian decides what to "give up for Lent."  In the historic, canonical
approach, the Eastern Churches, following the 69th Apostolic Canon, work together
to keep a corporate fast.  Simply stated this fast consists of the faithful doing their
best to fast and abstain from meat and animal byproducts during a period of forty plus
days.  Whatever else is contrary to the penitential spirit of the season is also avoided.  
The Great Fast is a call to set aside more time for God in prayer and to remember the
poor through almsgiving.  Variations exist, but this has been the basic pattern the
Church has followed for most of her existence.

Following the Biblical pattern for corporate fasting (e.g., Joel 1:14, Jon 3:5, Acts 14:
23), the Eastern Churches work together as one corporate body to keep the Great
Fast, seeking God's forgiveness and interceding for one another.  Lenten cook books
are an outgrowth of this historic experience.  For generations the Great Fast has been
a profound time for repentance and spiritual healing for the Church.  Abstinence and
fasting from food, as the Holy Fathers teach, are indispensable tools of repentance.  
Saint Basil the Great once said, "Since we were wounded by sin, we must treat it with
penance.  But penance without fast is worthless.  Then by fasting justify yourself
before God."  Thus fasting from food remains for Eastern Christians an essential part
of our repentance.

Today more than ever we live in an hedonistic age.  To overcome this and become
victorious, Christians must combat sin and evil by living lives of repentance.  Sadly, it
is common to hear the fasts being trivialized or ignored altogether.  The Church must
humbly but courageously follow her penitential periods and encourage the faithful to
do their best on the narrow path of repentance, faith and asceticism.  The word
asceticism means spiritual struggle and effort.  It takes spiritual effort to combat sin
in our lives and embrace God’s goodness.  As St. John the Forerunner said, “The
Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mt 11:12).  We
must do the violent things in our life necessary to eradicate sin and the wrong
behavior and thoughts which drive a wedge between us and our loving God.  All along
we keep in mind that without God "we can do nothing” and with God "all things are
possible.” (See also, Lk 9:23; 1 Cor 9:27; Gal 5:24, etc.).

As the Body of Christ, we can work together as one "spiritual house... to offer
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."  Then, at the end of the
Great Fast, having traveled this ancient path and pilgrimage together as one body in
Christ, we can triumphantly celebrate our Lord's Divine and Holy Pascha from death
to life on the great day of His Resurrection!

                  -Sub-Deacon Lazarus W. Der-Ghazarian, M.Th. Applied Orthodox Theology

(c) Copyright: 2001-2020, Lazarus Der-Ghazarian, looys.net, All Rights Reserved
St. Gregory of Narek
Great Armenian Monk, Mystic
& Doctor of Repentance
The 69th Canon of the Holy Apostles:

"If any bishop, presbyter, deacon,
sub-deacon, reader, or chanter
does not fast during the
Forty Days of Pascha,
or on Wednesday or Friday,
let him be defrocked
except if he were prevented
on account of bodily illness,
but if a layman let him be
excommunicated."
The Great Fast
Lent in the Orthodox Tradition

St. Paul summarizes the spirit in which we pursue our Lenten asceticism:
"I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, after preaching to others,
I myself should be disqualified."
(Cf. 1st Letter to the Corinthians 9:24-27).