Preparing for Lent–CrossFit Style; 5 ideas

CrossFit is all the rage nowadays for optimal health. Your average girl next door is now lifting 150 lbs no problem and your drinking buddy from college turned into the Hulk in 2 months. CrossFit’s success is attributed to three things:

  1.  Community
  2. Variation of Activities
  3. Adaptability for any person at any level

Combined with a wholesome healthy diet, this group is changing lives for $300 a month.

So LENT is coming! The CrossFit of the Orthodox Church. Are YOU ready to enter the ULTIMATE GYM of FAITH! The best part? There’s no charge! (Although we should be tithing 10% of our income)

Ok, so its hokey, yes I agree. But I thought I’d share 5 ideas with you to beef up your Lenten routine, and perhaps, through God’s grace, strengthen your spiritual life this year.

No matter what it is you choose to do, or how much you choose to do, you SHOULD choose SOMTHING. I don’t feel bad saying this as a lay person who is not your spiritual father. How many of us will devote 30 minutes to two hours anywhere form 3-6 times a week to our physical well-being and yet forget about our spiritual well-being? Those same people spend hours pouring over health websites and then more time finding the “healthy” options. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve fallen prey to it!

The key to Lent is that it is a time for simplification, and we should take advantage of that.

(Orthodox Lent begins March 18th this year)

For You:

confession1) Schedule confession…with your personal Spiritual Trainer

What is spiritual renewal without the renewal part!

Beginners:If you’ve never gone to confession before Lent is a great time to make that first step. If it is, indeed your first time, you may want to spend some time praying for God to reveal a spiritual father to you. This may be your parish priest, or not. It should be someone that you feel comfortable with as well as someone whom you feel will give you sound, spiritual guidance. If you are not sure of the latter, go ahead and ask around. You make sure your physical doctor is the best match for you; likewise you should be sure your spiritual father is the best match for you.

Non-Beginners: You are already accustomed to confession. See what your spiritual father has in store for you this Lenten Season.

2) Pick one thing (or more) to work on special for your Spiritual WOD

Just like working out without a trainer can be hazardous to your health, the church fathers advise that we should never go on a spiritual journey without the guidance of a spiritual father, so you should probably ask his advice first. But perhaps your “extra” thing will just be something else in line with what we should already be doing. Some ideas:

  • Fast more diligently  If you’ve never fasted before, try cutting out meat this year. If you’ve only ever fasted from meat, cut out the dairy. If you’ve fasted from meat and dairy, cut out the rest of the animal products, if you have done all of these things, try to keep a
    omplete fast on Clean Monday.
  • hand-with-prayer-ropePray more fervently: During Lent we pray the Prayer of St. Ephraim at all of the lenten services. If you do not have a prayer life, this short prayer may be a great way to begin one. If you say evening prayers, perhaps start saying morning prayers as well, or visa versa. Other than that, I would suggest discussing with a spiritual father before beginning any other endeavors.
  • Read More: Choose 1 or more of the following
    • Read the Daily Scripture Readings: There are 3 readings each day during lent. We begin with the story of creation and move through the OT, we also have daily readings from the Prophecies and Proverbs.
    • Read the Daily Lives of the Saints: You may have a book at home for this, the Prologue of Ohrid  is also available online, and my personal favorite is the OCA website.
    • Pick a Spiritual Book: Again, a Spritual Father would be able to best recommend a text for you. Find a way to break up the text into something manageable.  I would suggest the following:
      • Light/Short Read: The Lenten Spring by Fr. Thomas Hopko (40 chapters; pefect for 1 a day, and only a few pages per chapter
      • Heavy/Lengthy Reads: The Ladder of Divine Ascent (St. John Climacus) and/or the Triodion. The Triodion is available online and has the texts used in the daily services during lent. We often will not/cannot hear or understand the wealth that this book contains either for lack of services or lack of English, this text is AMAZING. The first time I read it each day, I was the most excited I had ever been for Pascha. You start picking up on the routine of Lent and its indescribable!

For Your Family

3) Choose one thing that you will do as a family…Community is EVERYTHING

Perhaps it is daily prayers, perhaps it is daily scripture readings. The Church is a community, and likewise your home is a little church.

4) Go to some Lenten Services…Those Prostrations are as good as burpees

Personally, I think one a week should be a bare minimum. But if this is something your family is unaccustomed to, perhaps it will be ONE compline and one presanctified during Lent. Make it a family affair! Better yet, coordinate with other families and share a meal afterwards. Growing up I have the fondest memories of going to church with my friends and their parents and then getting french fries at a diner afterwards.

5) Remove a distraction…Because while you’re fasting you’ve already knocked out the HFCS, antibotic-pumped animals and extra sugars!

Perhaps this is the television or secular music, or the computer. But pick a distraction to remove. Perhaps you will remove it completely for 40 days, or perhaps you will remove it for a certain time period (eg. no electronics after dinner). Not only will this force the family to come together, it will give you time to spend on other spiritually enlightening activities.

So make Lent your CrossFit journey to the only True Cross as we anticipate the Glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior.