Square Zero

Sunday of Cheesefare

Posted by Eric (February 28, 2006 at 7:01 pm)

Jesus PrayerYou’ve got to love a religion that has a feast called the “Sunday of Cheesefare.” Cheesefare Sunday—so called because it is the last day to eat cheese and other dairy products before the beginning of Great Lent—was the day before yesterday for most Eastern Catholics in the U.S. Other Eastern Catholics will celebrate Cheesefare Sunday next week, along with the Orthodox.

For Cheesfare Sunday I baked some four-cheese vegetarian calzones (no meat; we ate the last of that a week ago on Meatfare Sunday). The four cheeses were ricotta, parmasan, mozarella and pecorino, the last three of which I picked up at Trader Joe’s on Saturday. It was a mournful moment there in the dairy aisle, bidding farewell to my cheesy friends.

I hesitate to speak of my fasting publically. That is to say, I do not hesistate to do so at all—as my Latin Rite family and friends can attest—but I feel as if I ought to hesitate; at least, I recognize there it’s a delicate matter to speak of these things. In the Gospel at Divine Liturgy on Sunday instructed us to behave such that “your fasting may not be seen by men.” Carrying on about it hardly seems to comply.

However, this age needs fasting. Those who fast need encouragement, and those who do not fast, or do so only minimally, may benefit from the example of those who are willing to embrace the kind of rigorous fast that is traditional for Eastern Christians. Moreover, if it were known how desperately this soul needs the Great Fast, my speaking of it might be considered the very contrary of boasting; I only take on these sacrifices because in my weakness I cannot do without them.

And so I plan to comment here on the progress of this Great Lent—to disclose my Lenten observances and to describe the challenges and blessings I encounter in this “journey to Pascha.”

Fasting and Abstinence

Following the traditional Byzantine practice, I will abstain from animal products (meat, dairy and eggs). I will also abstain from alcoholic beverages (not just the traditional wine; but this is a practice I already followed as a Latin Rite Catholic). The kicker is that my wife April and I will abstain from the one flesh union—this too is a traditional Lenten practice, one which has been largely forgotten in both East and West.

April and I first decided to abstain from the marital embrace during Lent several years ago, shortly after I returned to the faith and April converted. We dubbed this the “Corinthian Fast,” after St. Paul:

“Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season that you may devote yourselve to prayer.” (1 Cor 7:5a)

When I learned that this particular fast was still practiced by some in the East, I counted it another of the many signs that I belonged in the Eastern Church.

In addition to these fasts, I will endeavor to pray 1000 Jesus Prayers every day. So far I’m not off to a very good start on that one; I only got about a quarter of that number yesterday. No worries; I don’t want to be too uptight about this one—after all, it will be hard to keep count in any case.

The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer is another of those signs that my home is in the Byzantine Church. I have used this prayer as my Act of Contrition after confession almost since the time I returned to the Church nine years ago.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I used that prayer because it was simple and easily memorized and, despite it’s brevity, it stood beside the longer and more common Acts of Contrition due to it’s usage since the very early Church. It is probably the oldest prayer in the Church after the Lord’s Prayer itself.

I will have more to say about the Jesus Prayer, fasting, the “Corinthian Fast” and the great liturgies of this season as Great Lent 2006 unfolds.

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10 Responses to “Sunday of Cheesefare”

  1. Mary Poppins NOT (Renee) says:

    I got your link up today, just thought you would like to know.

    Your post is very encouraging, thankyou!

    Comment posted March 1st, 2006 at 9:23 pm
  2. Mary Poppins NOT (Renee) says:

    Hey, sorry to pester, but I love the Jesus Prayer graphic. Is that your original work? Can I use it?

    Comment posted March 1st, 2006 at 9:25 pm
  3. Eric says:

    Yeah, that’s original. I can’t bring myself to post an entry without a graphic, so I had to punch that one up. Feel free to use it. I’d like to do one in Church Slavonic too, if I get around to the post on the Jesus Prayer I’m mulling over.

    Comment posted March 1st, 2006 at 9:37 pm
  4. James says:

    Echoing Renee’s comments: great Jesus prayer graphic, Eric. Seems you’re an artist to add to your talents… The Jesus Prayer has always been my favourite prayer too. Use it most when I am in great aridity in my personal prayer- which is most of the time. Like you, I have always used it as my Act of Contrition. Read a great little book on it – by Bishop Kalistos Ware (Orthodox). To be highly recommended. Now have holy nun-made chotki adorning wrist, in place of rosary. happy fasting. James

    Comment posted March 6th, 2006 at 7:00 am
  5. Square Zero » Blog Archive » A Rocky, Rooty Uphill Climb says:

    […] I do not know how difficult NFP has been for Sam and Bethany Torode, and while I do “remember” how difficult it has been for me and my wife at times, that difficulty is not really present for me at this moment—not now, with the Great Fast (and it’s “Corinthian” component) ended, and with breastfeeding infertility making NFP a non-issue. […]

    Comment posted May 1st, 2006 at 12:39 pm
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    Comment posted March 5th, 2007 at 1:00 pm
  7. Alan Westcott says:

    Just watched the movie ‘Ostrov’ and was reminded that I have been interested in learning to say the Jesus Prayer in Church Slavonic and/or Russian, but I don’t know how to pronounce the words. Is there a website where I can hear this to practise?

    Comment posted January 31st, 2008 at 10:18 am
  8. Cathleen says:

    There is a Byzantine church about 45 minutes from us. My husband and I have attended Mass there from time to time. And now we feel called to attend Mass there regularly. I have heard of Meatfare Sunday and Cheesefare Sunday but because we are Latin Rite Catholics, I never really was concerned with what the terms meant. I want to know if I understand this correctly. On Meatfare Sunday, that is the last chance to partake in meat and meat-based broths and sauces? What about fish? On Cheesefare Sunday, that is the last chance to partake in dairy products? During what week do the eggs get taken out of the picture? Do you pretty much eat as a vegan?

    Now I have heard of the Corinthian fast before. But is abstinence from alcohol a traditional practice? Or is that something that you personally do?

    I understand your hesitance to discuss your fasting practices. But I do appreciate you writing this. I feel like I have learned something of value, and I will consider it prayerfully in preparation for this year’s Lent.

    Comment posted January 1st, 2009 at 1:11 am
  9. Eric says:


    Thanks for your questions. I welcome the opportunity to share some reflections with you as you explore the Eastern Church.

    You’ve pretty much got it on Meatfare and Cheesefare Sundays. Eggs fall under “cheesefare”, which might be described as any food produced by an animal (versus food which is the animal, “meatfare”). So the last eggs before Lent are eaten on Cheesefare Sunday.

    As for fish, practice varies. Some Byzantines will eat fish on Fridays. Some will eat fish Fridays through Sundays. Others only on special feast days that fall during Lent (as Annunciation often does). Others abstain from fish altogether.

    For that latter group (I am one of them) you’re talking about a vegan fast of 46 days (40 days of Lent plus the 6 days of Holy Week). In my case, those 46 days are broken up by any special events like my children’s birthdays (if Ada wants pepperoni pizza on her birthday, daddy’s going to have some with her—and cake and ice cream, too), and my anniversary, which will fall in Lent all but one or two years out of our entire marriage.

    The alcohol thing is my own take on a traditional abstention from wine during Lent—which like fish is total for some, all but feast days (Sundays and feasts like Annunciation) for others, etc. Since beer held the place in medieval Western Europe that wine did in Byzantium, it seems appropriate to me to abstain from beer (either instead or in addition to wine).

    Personally I prefer to abstain from all alcohol, because to drink is to celebrate (if you’re doing it right—and I mean, if you’re drinking right and if you’re celebrating right)—to feast—and feasting is the opposite of fasting. Lent is the time to seek detachment from earthly goods, and in so doing to discover how strongly attached we really are to all these things which are not God.

    Comment posted January 2nd, 2009 at 11:00 pm
  10. Square Zero » 2012 » The Temptation of Mardi Gras says:

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