As cameras followed revelers at Brazil’s Carnival or New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, Lent in the Armenian Apostolic Church made a quiet entrance this past Monday. The next month and a half wouldn’t be too different from the last but this year I plan on observing the Great Lent. It’s accurate to say that I’m a non-observant Christian, in fact I’m non-observant to the point of being an atheist, so you might be wondering why I would suddenly decide to follow a religious edict. The aspects of Lent such as self-discipline and reflection are just as applicable to me as they are to religious people but the commitments I am making aren’t those shallow promises so many make during Lent like giving up chocolate or meat on Fridays.
Instead, I will be following church guidelines and abstain from all animal products, meaning not meat, fish, dairy products or eggs. After doing some reading I came to learn that not every part of the Great Lent was agreed upon, such as whether or not the fast extends to Saturday and Sunday but I have decided to extend my fasting to the weekend as well. There is also debate over whether or not wine and other alcoholic beverages should be abstained from but I decided to use my discretion and allow myself to partake in small amounts. While it may have been smarter to slowly wean myself into vegan cuisine, I took the Poon Paregentan, or the Sunday of Good Living, and turned it into a week long culinary orgy of hamburgers, omelet’s and ice cream.
Since then I’ve followed these guidelines it hasn’t been so much about reflection as it has self-discipline and getting used to a vegan diet. It was only until the day I started fasting that I realized animal products are ubiquitous in pantries and refrigerators across this country, including mine. Shortly after this discovery I did some belated research and drew up a list of foods I would need to buy if I were to survive for the next month and a half, many of them ingredients to traditional Lenten dishes I found in some Armenian cookbooks. I‘m now planning to expand towards Indian cuisine which boasts a number of vegetarian dishes and exploring sites and resources provided to me by some of my friends that are vegan. It’s been a slow week cooking wise so my biggest accomplishment was making my own falafel which was not only edible but got my mom’s approval. Then again I think mothers are contractually obligated to love everything their children make so who knows how much weight her opinion really carries.
In addition to the new diet and food, I’ll be writing about the spiritual aspects of Lent, the parable of each week, like the Sunday of the Expulsion for instance and my take on the required Bible readings for the week. Much of this week resembled the first week of school, I spent most of the time finding my bearings and familiarizing with the material. In the following weeks the material will become more complex and enriching, an experience I look forward to sharing with you all in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned for the next installment of this series next week.
This is the first part in a series on the Lenten Journey, a 40 day fasting period before Easter observed by several Christian denominations, including the Armenian Apostolic Church.