An author at The Greek Reporter writes: “For Greek Orthodox Christians, Clean Monday marks the beginning of the 40-day fast before Easter; tradition dictates that the faithful start abstaining from eating animal products and fly a kite. Clean Monday is a cleansing of the body in preparation for the holiest period of Greek Orthodoxy and the flying of a kite is an effort to reach the Divine. Having your gaze fixed in the sky for as long as the kite flies is spiritual and mental elevation.”
That last line might sound a little hokey, but deeper is something a Russian Orthodox priest texted me at this time last year: “We speak of Lent as being a time of bright sadness. Which is to say that it is a time of repentance when our sorrow over our sins heralds the great joy of the Resurrection.”
The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics always saw the Great Fast (Lent) as a time of lightness and joy. Does the West see it that way?
Yes. I think only recently did Catholics start to joke how miserable we are all going to be at Lent (perhaps as a humble-brag to show how much we’re going to fast?) Or, perhaps it was once funny to joke in a sarcastic way about how much food I need during the year and how painful it is to focus on fasting or repentance.
But the West traditionally saw Lent in a very positive light. I find the most encouraging and positive propers to the Traditional Latin Mass to be found in the Lenten season. (Were joyful collects written to encourage the early Roman Christians into deeper hope as they were fasting so hard?)
For example, the second post-communion prayer yesterday in the Traditional Latin Mass was: O God, restorer and lover of innocence (innocéntiæ restitútor et amátor) direct the hearts of Your servants towards You, so that, filled with the fervor of Your spirit, they may be found steadfast in faith and rich in good works. 1
Notice the beautiful encouragement in the above collect as we look to God as the “restorer and lover of innocence.” Rarely in the year are we begging God so clearly to be “filled with the fervor of Your spirit.”
We Catholics need to rejoice in Lent as the time we are less attached to the earth, less attached to meat, less attached to our addictions, less attached to our technology. Freedom from earthly attachments may not be something we want to trash on Easter Sunday by overturning our new resolutions. What if we saw Lent this year as the beginning of our liberation from earthly attachments as we hunger more for God?
In some sense, being lighter on our feet and clearer in our minds this Lent could be the beginning of our bodily Resurrection: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.—Col 3:1-4