This a highly edited and updated version that was originally posted 2 years ago.
When I created this blog, I promised myself not to write my own views and shy away from even sharing my own experiences. I originally wrote this short post after great lent of 2019 had finished. It had taught me something I thought was worthy of sharing. That is why I am sharing it again in a highly edited form before this upcoming holy time of lent.
The issue of travelling during the Great lent (or any fast). I am very well aware that due to the COVID crisis, travel is impossible for most. However, I deeply believe my experiences while travelling can be applied in everyday life, when we “drift away…” or become pre-occupied with earthly matters.
In todays world, the dietary aspects of the fast (avoid animal products and oil) is rather easy to keep, even during travels (its popular to be vegan these days). After the first week of the Great lent in 2019, I went to Japan for a conference and stayed there for two weeks, as a vacation. Full of confidence and pride that I would “keep the fast” there, my dear priest friend told me, before I left, that he did not think it to be a good idea to travel for such a long time during lent, especially if it could be avoided – and in all honesty I could have just stayed for one week, but chose to stay longer (come on, its Japan!). The issue, as I mentioned before, was not the food, I “kept the fast” in that way.
What was the issue however, is the part of the fast that is equally as important (actually most important) – the prayer life. To pray more, pray “better” and to find peace inside – to be close to Christ. This prayer is so so necessary in order to get into the mood of Great lent, which should be a mood of repentance and humbleness. This, as I quickly learned, was harder “to keep” while in Japan. Not because of Japan as such, but because of being out of rhythm, not in accordance to my normal routines, concentrating a lot on less important things in life and in a foreign place. I simply could not pray good in the capsule hotel I stayed at and the excitement of being again in Tokyo (my favourite city) made my mind and heart more often than not focus more on temporal things, than on prayer and closeness to Christ. Tokyo has a wonderful Orthodox cathedral with many services and a friendly and open Orthodox community – but being out of my comfort zone and away from my routines – I still struggled.
I am therefore sharing this here – if you can, avoid long travels during fasts and especially during the Great lent. I was humbled very quickly and the lesson it taught me is something I will carry with me forever. I am weak and need all the peace and balance possible to even try to attain some sort of prayerful state that is so important always, and especially during lent. And today in 2021 during the Corona crisis, we often drift away for days into less important things putting God and prayer in a drawer, giving them a break so to speak. While my “aha!” moment came during travels, the essence of what I realised, could and can apply even today, sitting at home in a semi-lockdown. We need God and especially so if we are to be able to change our hearts during the period of the Great lent – because what we do during these holy weeks, we hope and pray, will stay with us forever.
I wish you all a blessed a fruitful lent. May God bless us all and help us always.
May His most holy Mother always be near us and pray for us.
P. S.Tokyo is a Great city, very peaceful even – but perhaps best visited outside the Great lent…