During this holy season of Lent, we hear of people making pilgrimages to the Holy Land. If we make this pilgrimage, we will be in a two-thousand-year line of people who have been traveling to that destination. Many such people will be traveling in the footsteps of Egeria, a nun (abbess?) who probably went there in about 381-384 A.D. Egeria was apparently in Jerusalem during Holy Week and Easter. Here are some of her observations concerning the differences in Lenten practices:
"When the season of Lent is at hand, it is observed in the following manner. Now whereas with us the forty days preceding Easter are observed, here [that is, in Jerusalem] they observe the eight weeks before Easter. This is the reason why they observe eight weeks: On Sundays and Saturdays they do not fast, except on the one Saturday which is the vigil of Easter, when it is necessary to fast. Except on that day, there is absolutely no fasting here on Saturdays at any time during the year. And so, when eight Sundays and seven Saturdays have been deducted fom the eight weeks -- for it is necwessary, as I have just said, to fast on one Saturday -- there remain forty-one days which are spent in fasting, which are called here 'eortae,' that is to say, Lent.
"This is a summary of the fasting practices here during Lent. There are some who, having eaten on Sunday after the dismissal, that is, at the fifth or the sixth hour, do not eat again for the whole week until Saturday, following the dismissal from the Anastasis. These are the ones who observe the full week's fast. Having eaten once in the morning on Saturday, they do not eat again in the evening, but only on the following day, on Sunday, that is, do they eat after the dismissal from the church at the fifth hour or later. Afterwards, they do not eat again until the following Saturday, as I have already said. Such is their fate during the Lenten season that they take no leavened bread (for this cannot be eaten at all) no olive oil, nothing which comes from trees, but only water and a little flour soup. And this is what is done throughout Lent."
Obviously Egeria was not accustomed to such austerity. Neither are we.
The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek