The Lenten Covenant
A “covenant” is a promise. God has made covenants with us. In the Old Testament, He makes the first Covenant with Abraham, to be the God of Abraham’s descendants. The sign of this Covenant is circumcision. In the New Testament, God replaces the Old Covenant with a New Covenant, which is baptism and Holy Communion. If you are baptized and have received Holy Communion, then you have a Covenant relationship with God—you are part of the Covenant between God and His people. The Lenten Covenant is a prom- ise between us and God—it is a promise to do certain things during Lent so that one can grow spiritually during Lent, with a promise to change one thing after Lent has ended so that spiritual growth continues during the year. The Lenten Covenant will help us in keep- ing the lifelong Covenant relationship we have with God by giving us a short-term covenant by which to evaluate our standing in the lifelong Covenant.
How does the Lenten Covenant Work?
Below there is a form that lists a menu of plans to help in a Lenten Goal of growing closer to God this year. The menu includes fast- ing, prayer, worship, reading the Bible, reading a theology book, going to confession, changing one bad habit, and the one that is most important, a goal for once Pascha is over. The menu offers several levels of commitment for each area. Each area is important—it is important that you fast, pray, worship, read scriptures, go to confession, and change a bad habit if you are going to get something out of this Lent. But if you’ve never fasted before, the covenant offers different levels of difficulty. So if you’ve never fasted, perhaps you should check the easiest level. If you’ve mastered the first level, perhaps this year you challenge yourself with the second level. If you’ve never read the Bible, don’t commit to reading the whole Bible during Lent—that is a huge commitment. Commit rather to something smaller like reading a chapter a day, or perhaps reading the Gospels, something that is challenging but attainable. If you’ve never worshipped in church on a day that isn’t Sunday, don’t commit to every service during Lent, but commit to one service per week, or even commit to one of each of the Lenten services, which would be three extra services over the six weeks of Lent. Regarding con- fession, how many hours of your life have you spent alone with an Orthodox priest to talk about your salvation? If you are over age 20 and the answer is zero, perhaps you need to think about changing that this Lent. If you are over age 60 and the answer is zero, you’ve got even more incentive. Think about how many hours a year you spend watching television, or listening to music, going to movies, doing yardwork, gossiping on the phone—it adds up to hundreds of hours each year, thousands of hours over a lifetime. And then think about how many hours you’ve spent in your whole life talking about your salvation, about repentance, with an Orthodox priest. Sadly, for many people, the answer is zero. This could be the year you change that.
So, if you decide to do the Lenten Covenant, do the following:
- Fill out the survey which follows.
- Make two copies of it for each person in your household that is going to participate.
- Put one copy in a place at home where you can see it, on the refrigerator, by your bedside, in your Bible.
- Take the other copy of the covenant and place it in an envelope.
- Seal the envelope and write your name and address on the envelope.
- Bring the envelope to church on Sunday, March 13, and place it in a box that will be in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary onthe solea of the church.
- The box will be kept locked, the only person with the key will be Fr. Stavros
- FATHER STAVROS WILL NOT OPEN THE ENVELOPES OR READ THEIR CONTENTS—these will remain private.Father Stavros will merely jot down the names on the envelopes to pray for these people throughout Lent, to pray that they will
make good on their covenants. This is my commitment to you.
- The box will remain in the church until the Resurrection Service on Easter as a reminder to you each time you come to churchthat you have a covenant or promise to God.
- After Easter, your envelope will be mailed to you in your self-addressed envelope, as proof that the envelope was neveropened, and as a way for you to see how you did.