“And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan;
and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.“- Mark 1:13
The forty-day period of Lent offers a marvelous opportunity for the faithful to experience spiritual renewal.
When the period is lived mindfully it becomes the most influential and beneficial occasion for spiritual ennoblement and the enhancement of one’s happiness.
What is Lent/ Medz Bahk?
Great Lent in the Armenian Church serves to instruct us on how empty life would be without God.
During the Lenten period, we actively imagine the separation and sorrow that Adam and Eve experienced once they were expelled from the Garden of Eden by separating ourselves from rich food, from Communion, from the Kiss of Peace, and even from seeing the altar for 40 days.
During Lent, we also look ahead to Easter when, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we celebrate the access to the good living (paregentan) that God freely offers to all who believe.
The Triple Meaning of Lent
To live the Medz Bahk mindfully means the following:
To make prayer, both alone and collectively, the axis of our lives
People need to preserve in trying to cleanse themselves spiritually and come closer to God. The path for approaching God is prayer, from the depths of the heart, in which one speaks to God, expressing thanks, and glorifying Him for the life and all kinds of goodness He has granted. One must understand their value and live appropriately. In prayer, one must open his heart to God from its very depths.
To observe abstinence, in the sense of self-denial
Abstinence, which is essentially a religious, moral, and spiritual concept, cannot be comprehended as something to do with foods or eating. Its origin or presence in church life cannot be explained by concerns about nutrition.
In its correct and profound meaning, abstinence is an act in which man leads himself willingly into denying himself sensual and material pleasures, and lavishness.
Just as physicians sometimes prescribe restrictions on certain foods and physical activity in order to enable the restoration of physical health, so too, spiritual doctors, that is, the heads of the church, vartabeds, prescribe abstinence so that the faithful will be able, through prayer and self-denial, to restore spiritual health.
To perform good works by offering services
Often, in sharing the pain being suffered by others, people not only do good to those other by lessening their pain, they also do good to themselves. Specifically, the faithful would do well during Lent to try to:
– bring comfort to a sick person,
– give aid to a poor person,
– provide support to an incapacitated, elderly person,
– assist as a volunteer in a benevolent or cultural institution.
Why is Lent 40 Days?
40 days is the length of time that Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert between his baptism and the start of his ministry (Luke 4:2-4). Throughout scripture, the number 40 represents “a long time,” (e.g. Noah’s flood was 40 days and 40 nights, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.) Jesus used those 40 days in the desert to prepare himself spiritually for the important work that He was setting out to do.
Why Do We “Give Something Up” for Lent?
Using Jesus’ example, Great Lent is about fasting and about spiritual strengthening. What we give up is not as important as what we take on, whether it’s prayer, reading the Bible, participating in worship or doing acts of charity. The Armenian Church encourages us to fill the gaps left by the things we give up with actions that strengthen our relationship with God. I recall a friend many years ago who struggled with giving up doughnuts for Lent. She told me that every time she craved a doughnut she would simply pray, “God, I want you more than I want this doughnut.” It was the discipline of praying, not giving up doughnuts, that helped my friend draw closer to God during those 40 days.
Lent has been instituted to provide the opportunity for the faithful to prepare themselves spiritually to accept the good news of Christ’s Resurrection, which is the supreme power of Christian life.Source: “Plain Words for Plain Souls”, Antelias, 1975
What does Church look like during Lent?
What does Church look like during Lent?
These services conducted with the drawn veil concealing the altar during Medz Bahk direct the worshiper’s attention to spiritual introspection and self-appraisal in place of the resplendence of the Divine Liturgy performed at other times by bishops in splendid vestments.
In addition to traditional Badarak, Sunday services include the “Arevakal” or Sunrise service, full of beautiful, enlightening hymns.
Other liturgical services known as “Khaghaghakan” (peace), and “Hangstyan” (rest) are typically held on Wednesdays in the evening. They are directed mainly to spiritual light, truth, and beauteous glorification.
Services take place on Wednesday evenings at 6:00pm on our Facebook page. Click here to follow along.