Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate the beginning of the Lenten season Monday by giving up meat, eggs and dairy products. The Eastern church celebrates the season in March, while Western churches will mark the end of the 40 days of Lent later this month with Easter celebrations.
The Orthodox rules requiring fasting from meats, eggs or dairy products to help believers ward off the evils of lust, lies, cursing and anger, according to the church. "Generally speaking, fasting is an essential element of the Christian life," a statement from the Orthodox Church in America reads. "It has as its goal the purification of our lives, the liberation of our souls and bodies from sin, the strengthening of our human powers of love for God and man, the enlightening of our entire being for communion with the Blessed Trinity."
— The Herald-News (@Joliet_HN) March 10, 2016
The Lenten season symbolizes the 40 days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert after he was baptized by John the Baptist. Western Christians, which includes Roman Catholics and Protestants, use the newer Gregorian calendar to determine the date of Easter. Eastern Orthodox Christians depend on the older Julian calendar. There is a 13-day difference between the two calendars.
The Eastern church believes Easter should be celebrated after the Jewish holiday of Passover. It also differs from its western counterpart in that it doesn't celebrate Ash Wednesday, when faithful churchgoers have their foreheads marked with crosses of ash, which is taken from the burned remains of the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration.
"During the period of the Great Lent the awakening of the spirit of man comes about through inspiration from the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. It is a time of self-examination and preparation, and of taking an inventory of one's inner life," according to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
For Western churches, Lent ends on Holy Thursday, or March 24.