Recipe Corner: Recipe for Great Lent (MEDZ BAHK) Courtesy of St. John Armenian Apostolic Church


Great Lent in the Armenian Church

All ancient churches observe Great Lent (Arm. Medz Bahk), also called “Karasnortk” since it lasts forty days. The days of Lent are referred to as Karasnortagan and the Sundays-Karasnortagan Giragi.  Great Lent is the longest of the fasts prescribed in the liturgical calendar and it begins on the Monday following Poon Paregentan and lasts for forty days (six weeks) up until the Friday prior to Lazarus Saturday.  Great Lent is therefore the preparatory spiritual journey with its destination of Easter, “the Feast of Feasts.” It is the preparation for the “fulfillment of Pascha, the true Revelation.

The Latin name Quadragesima corresponds to the Armenian Karasnortats Bahk (‘Fast of Forty Days’). The traditions differ in how to calculate the forty-day period.   The principles and practices of Lent in the Armenian Church are deeply rooted in the Bible, the ancient Christian traditions, the life-example of Christ and His disciples, and the lives of the great church fathers, all of whom contributed to the establishment of the canons of Lent.

The focus of Lent is on “Man the Sinner”: on his repentance, his spiritual cleansing, and his eventual salvation. (See:

Fasting during Lent needs to be done in the context of deep reflection on the truth about ourselves, in a spirit of unusual sincerity and honesty. Fasting is, in fact, a companion to prayer: one more way we speak to God from the heart. Great Lent is the time of preparation for the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ. It is the living symbol of our own life which is to be fulfilled in our resurrection from the dead with Christ. It is a time of renewed devotion – of prayer, fasting, and alms giving.

If you’re keeping a strict fast, the St. John Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco offers the following Lenten-friendly recipes for family and friends. “Maintain a fast from certain foods, this builds discipline and conscientiousness in your daily life, and promotes health.  A strict Lenten fast in the Armenian Church prohibits all animal products, but if your health or circumstances can’t allow for it, start smaller. It shouldn’t become an obsession, but a precursor to spiritual growth.”

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Red Lentils with Cracked Wheat Vospov (Kheemah or Kufta)


1 1/4 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed

3 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup cracked wheat (bulgur), fine

Topics: Lent

3/4 cup olive oil

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

1 teaspoon red pepper, to taste


1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped red and green pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped scallions or onions


Place lentils in a kettle, add water and bring to the boil. Simmer 5 minutes, removing thick foam that rises to the surface.

Add salt and continue simmering, covered, for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. When mixture has cooked to a thick, yellow mass and water is absorbed, remove from heat.

Measure cracked wheat into a deep bowl and spoon cooked lentils over it, mixing to blend. Set bowl aside, covered for 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet and add onions, sautéing them just until they begin to brown. Add pepper, stir, then add skillet contents to bowl and knead or mix thoroughly. Taste to adjust seasoning.

Moisten hands and shape mixture into finger-or sausage-shaped patties: inch off a piece, squeeze it gently in your clenched fist and release it. Arrange patties on a serving platter. Combine garnish greens, sprinkle over patties, and serve.

Yield: 6 or more servings.

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