Great Lent (Medz Bahk) began on Monday, February 28. It is a time of prayer, penance, abstinence, and devotion, and a very personal spiritual journey that is based on the 40 days Christ spent in the wilderness following his baptism. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished.” (Matthew 4:1-2)
Often the faithful wonder what can be eaten during Great Lent. These are some general guidelines traditionally followed in the Armenian Church:
- No meat or animal products (including dairy and eggs) are eaten during Lent at least from Monday through Friday.
- Fasting is broken on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. Fasting rules are relaxed on Saturdays too, the only day of the week when saints are commemorated during Great Lent.
More generally, fasting during Great Lent varies from Church to Church and has changed over time. This applies, too, to the Armenian Church. While there are ambiguities about alcohol and certain foods, including oils and honey, we know that fasting was very strict in ancient times among the Armenians. One of the Armenian names for Lent, Aghoohats, means “salt and bread.” It literally describes the diet followed by Armenian monks, clergy and certainly many of the faithful in ancient times at least from Monday through Friday, when they would only have bread, salt, and water.