I am a convert to Orthodoxy and thus I do not have a long past with all things Orthodox. I was attracted to Orthodoxy in one way because of the spiritual practices or disciplines of the Orthodox Church. My feeling was other Churches had watered down or done away with the spiritual practices of the respective churches because the people were not doing them anymore. I fear this will one day happen in Orthodox Church although I pray this will never happen.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is not easy, nothing worth doing is easy. I am not perfect, far from it, just ask anyone who knows me. I strive to keep the fast periods of the Church and I struggle with them, but that is how it is supposed to be. Fasting and abstinence are not easy and that is by design. We fast to reign in our passions, lust, anger, etc. As the Scripture told us yesterday “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:17-31)
However I think there is a part of this season that we tend to forget. We do not feast during the fast! Recently, a very honorable Orthodox Institution scheduled a festive opening of a new program smack dab in the middle of the fast period. After it was pointed out, to this mainly non-Orthodox Staff of this Orthodox Institution, that we do not feast during the fast, changes were made to to the program. But it points to a larger problem of feasting during the fast.
This time of year is supposed to be different so this means not old abstaining from some foods but also abstaining from feasting. We do not go out with our friends to public houses, our out to dinner during this time of the year. As an example, the Orthodox Church does not allow weddings to take place during this time of the year, why you ask? Because we do not feast during the fast. Divine Liturgies are not celebrated during the week during this time of the year, why you ask? Because we do not feast during the fast!
Unless we get back to the basics of the Church and speak and teach and live the spiritual disciplines of our church, me included, then we face the possibility of just being another Church. I believe that the reason less and less people are going to Church is just this reason, we stopped teaching what the church teaches and why. Priests, get back to the basics and teach your people and, lead by example, DO NOT FEAST DURING THE FAST!