Clean Monday:Great Lent Begins General rules of the Lenten Fast

Clean Monday

Clean Monday (Greek: Καθαρά Δευτέρα), also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent or Green Monday, is the first day of Great Lent. With Clean Monday begins Great Lent in the Orthodox Church and marks the end of feasting. Clean Monday is called as such because Christians are called to cleanse themselves spiritually and bodily. It is also a day of strict fasting with no work. The holy fast has a duration of 40 days in imitation of our Lord's fast in the desert.

Clean Monday and the First Week of the Great Lent

The first week of the Holy Forty Day Fast are “the days beginning the holy fast”. The Holy Church during this week, inviting its children to begin “the all honorable abstinence”, to work “for the Lord with fear”, to fast “the pleasant fast pleasing to the Lord”, to fast not only “in body” but also “in spirit” opens the purpose and meaning of “the all honorable fast”.

“The Fast has come”, sings the holy Church in its hymns, “mother of chastity, accuser of sins, advocate of repentance, life of the angels and salvation of men”. “For by this Moses was glorified, and he received the Law written upon tablets”, “Elijah having fasted, was enclosed in heaven”, “through fasting the youths were delivered from the furnace and the Prophet Daniel from the jaws of the lions”; and “taking as shield the strong armor of the Fast, let us repel every delusion of the enemy. Let us not be led astray by the lusts of passion, let us not flinch before the fire of temptation”; “let us quench the burning passions of the flesh”, “Let us be pure before the Pure One, and seeking purity from all before the Only Savior of our souls”; “illumined by divine virtues, let us gaze with faith upon the radiance of the Passion of the Savior”, and “let us receive from Christ God great mercy”.

Together with this the holy Church finds out in detail also the properties of true lent, as valid means for the cleansing of sin, as the basis of repentance, as the beginning of the return of the person to God.

According to the teaching of the holy Church, “true fasting is to put away all evil, to control the tongue, to forbear from anger, to abstain from lust, slander, falsehood and perjury. If we renounce these things, then our fasting is true and acceptable”.

Therefore, inviting its children to true repentance and lenten ascetic efforts, the holy Church also sings: “Clothing ourselves in the shining raiment of the Fast, let us cast off the dark and hateful garment of drunkenness”; “let us love chastity, and let us flee from fornication, let us gird our loins with temperance”, “let us wash our faces in the water of dispassion”, “let us loose every bond of iniquity, let us terminate the knots of every contract made by violence; let us tear up all unjust agreements; let us give bread to the hungry and to our house welcome the poor who have no roof to cover them”; “let us brightly begin the all honorable abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage.”

Rules of Fast during the first three weeks of Triodion

1. No fasting during the week after the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.

2. Wednesday and Friday during the week after the Sunday of the Prodigal Son are fast day.

3. The weekdays after the Sunday of the Last Judgment all foods are eaten except meat.

4. On Clean Monday, the day after the Forgiveness Sunday, begins the fast of Great Lent.

General Rules of the Lenten Fast

The Lenten Fast rules that we observe today were established within the monasteries of the Orthodox Church during the sixth through eleventh centuries. These rules are intended for all Orthodox Christians, not just monks and nuns.

The first week of Lent is especially strict. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a total fast is kept. In practice, very few people are able to do this. Some find it necessary to eat a little each day after sunset. Many Faithful do fast completely on Monday and then eat only uncooked food (bread, fruit, nuts) on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the fast is kept until after the Presanctified Liturgy.

From the second through the sixth weeks of Lent, the general rules for fasting are practiced. Meat, animal products (cheese, milk, butter, eggs, lard), fish (meaning fish with backbones), olive oil and wine (all alcoholic drinks) are not consumed during the weekdays of Great Lent. Octopus and shell-fish are allowed, as is vegetable oil. On weekends, olive oil and wine are permitted.

According to what was done in the monasteries, one meal a day is eaten on weekdays and two meals on weekends of Great Lent. No restriction is placed on the amount of food during the meal, though moderation is always encouraged in all areas of one's life at all times.

Fish, oil and wine are allowed on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and on Palm Sunday (one week before Easter). On other feast days, such as the First and Second Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist (February 24) , the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9), the Forefeast of the Annunciation (March 24) and the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (March 26), wine and oil are permitted.

Always fast not according to your own will but following the guidance from your spiritual father.

The Purpose of Fasting

The purpose of fasting is to focus on the things that are above, the Kingdom of God. It is a means of putting on virtue in reality, here and now. Through it we are freed from dependence on worldly things. We fast faithfully and in secret, not judging others, and not holding ourselves up as an example.

Fasting in itself is not a means of pleasing God. Fasting is not a punishment for our sins. Nor is fasting a means of suffering and pain to be undertaken as some kind of atonement. Christ already redeemed us on His Cross. Salvation is a gift from God that is not bought by our hunger or thirst.

We fast to be delivered from carnal passions so that God’s gift of Salvation may bear fruit in us.

We fast and turn our eyes toward God in His Holy Church. Fasting and prayer go together.

Fasting is not irrelevant. Fasting is not obsolete, and it is not something for someone else. Fasting is from God, for us, right here and right now.

Most of all, we should not devour each other. We ask God to “set a watch and keep the door of our lips.”

Do Not Fast

if you are pregnant or nursing a newborn;

during serious illness;

without prayer;

without alms-giving;

according to your own will without guidance from your spiritual father.

Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia