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: http://stjamesevanston.org/great-lent)
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.”