*Note - I've made a couple corrections since this was originally posted.
Over on the website for St. Silouan Orthodox Church there is a powerful piece of writing by Fr. Seraphim Bell.
I am not Orthodox. (I'm active LDS.)However, I have come to develop deep respect for the Orthodox people that I know and have grown spiritually in my own tradition by the discussions I have had with them regarding their faith.
Lent is a very big deal to the Orthodox.
Nothing is eaten from Monday morning until Wednesday evening. Then, throughout the entire forty day period the fast includes avoiding meat, meat products, fish, dairy products, and all sexual relations. Of course, in practice some are more dilligent in observing the fast than others, and there are exceptions made for children, nursing mothers or those with special health considerations. But more important that the "don'ts" of the fast are the sacred sacraments they will participate in - some daily - to give them spiritual strength to do the inner work of self examination and repentance that are such an integral part of the fast.
What impressed me the most about what Fr. Seraphim wrote was his emphasis on PREPARING for the fast that was coming up. He councils his congregation to look ahead to what is coming and make plans for how they can arrange their schedules as well as prepare their hearts to make this lent season more meaningful. I can learn from that.
What do I do on a personal level to fully prepare for taking the sacrament or attending conference? As I am going through my own Christian walk, what steps am I willing to take to prepare for the celebration of Easter as a holy commemoration of the atonement and resurrection rather than a day for chocolate bunnies and eggs?
I will not observe the same dos or the don'ts of Orthodox Lent. But I have made a personal commitment to focus some specific spiritual study and to tackle some areas of my own behavior & attitudes that need to change if I am going to fully walk my talk in trying to live a Christ like life.
Last year I attended Pascha services with my Orthodox friends and went to Bright Monday picnic. Both were very special. I also went to the service commemorating the life of St. Mary of Egypt, the first saint that I ever took any particular interest in and whose story taught me a great deal about repentance and forgiveness. I don't expect I'll be doing those same things this year. However, I will be thinking a lot about the meaning of my faith and what role it has in my life.
I know that there are some Orthodox people (Fr. Seraphim included) who would say that I am not Christian at all because I do not believe in a Trinity and I do not accept the Nicene Creed. Regardless of their opinion of my belief or practices, I believe that being a Christian is about making a personal commitment to accept the teachings of Jesus Christ as true principles and then to diligently do all I can to pattern my life in accordance with those teachings. I believe is is about accepting the Atonement as a sacred miracle that makes it possible for me to become dead to the "natural man" and to be renewed as a child of God.
When I hear the Orthodox choirs sing the line about "trampling out death by death..." or "Kyrie Eleison" in THOSE moments I feel a complete accord with them.
So even though my doctrinal beliefs are quite different from those taught in Orthodoxy, I am ever so grateful for all they have taught me and I look forward to this season of the Sacred fast of Lent as yet another chance to draw closer to the God that created me, to ponder and learn through promptings of the Holy Spirit, and to examine my life in a deeper, more signficant fashion that I ordinarily do day to day.
My prayers will go out in behalf of my Orthodox friends, and my desire will be that each one of us in our own way will know with more surety that we are beloved sons and daughters of God.