6 Ways Byzantine Catholic Lent is Different From Roman Catholic Lent

All Catholics have many customs and traditions for observing the season of Lent, but some of them differ between the different Rites of Catholicism. If you’re not sure what Byzantine Catholics are, you can read an intro to Eastern Catholics here, and these Rites of Catholicism are in full communion with Rome. Today we are going to look at some of the main differences between the Eastern Catholic Great Lent, and the Roman Catholic Lenten season.

 

This article and calendar are by Carrie Chuff, a Byzantine Rite Catholic mom. 

You may associate Lent with a sooty cross placed on your forehead, or a parish Fish Fry every Friday. The Catholic Lenten season is filled with traditions as we prepare our souls with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in the 40 days before the great celebration of Easter.

Did you know that Eastern Catholics celebrate Lent a bit differently, though? 

Although Roman Catholics and Eastern Catholics are in full communion with one another, because Eastern Catholics are much smaller in number, many Roman Catholics are unfamiliar with any of the differences in our unique practice of the Catholic Faith.

Here are six examples to increase your knowledge and understanding of your Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters who use the Byzantine Rite:

1. It’s called Great Lent.

Eastern Catholics like to use lots of descriptions when referring to feast days and holy people! For example, instead of calling the feast day on August 15th “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” you might see us refer to it as “The Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.” What’s not to love about a little extra embellishment?! 

It’s similar with Lent. Great Lent, also alternatively referred to as the Great Fast, is just the way Byzantine Rite Catholics describe our period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving before the great Church feast celebrating the Resurrection. 

While our traditions during Great Lent differ in some ways from the Roman Catholic observation of Lent, it might help to know that “Great Lent” is not referring to a completely separate liturgical time period. 

2. Byzantine Catholics Have A Period Of Preparation 

Each Sunday during Great Lent has a specific commemoration associated with it, but beginning with what is called Zacchaeus Sunday, the five Sundays before the Great Fast begins also have specific commemorations to help us prepare our hearts for the upcoming penitential season. These Sundays recall particular scenes in Scripture that fit with the theme of repentance and humility.

  • On Zacchaeus Sunday, we recall how Zacchaeus turned away from his sinfulness and welcomed the Lord.
  • The following Sunday remembers the story of the Publican and Pharisee, which encourages us to focus on humility and contrition.
  • Next, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son inspires us toward repentance in our relationship with God the Father.
  • Meatfare Sunday, also known as Judgement Sunday, reminds us of Christ’s Second Coming and the Last Judgement. This is the last day before Great Lent that we eat meat.
  • The next Sunday is Cheesefare Sunday, also known as Forgiveness Sunday. This day includes a beautiful service called Forgiveness Vespers, during which each member of the congregation asks forgiveness of one another. This is a very pertinent and touching way to start the Great Fast, which begins the very next day.

3. Byzantine Catholic Fasting Looks Different.

Roman Catholics lovingly abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent, often making fish dishes instead. Moreover, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting in addition to abstinence, where the amount of food eaten is limited.

The Lenten fast for Byzantine Rite Catholics looks quite different! Traditionally, our fasting period is more focused on abstaining from meat, fish, dairy, eggs, wine, and olive oil during the entirety of Lent.

Fasting is a very private spiritual matter for which guidance from a spiritual father is always recommended, however. Children are not expected to fast in the same way that adults are, and if someone can’t keep the full traditional fast for whatever reasons (because there are countless medical, psychological, or spiritual reasons why that might be the case!), that’s not a problem, and spiritual fathers are usually well aware of a person’s needs in that regard. We keep the maxim to “keep your eye on your own plate,” which helps us focus on humility and reliance on God, in addition to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving!

You can now download a completely free 3 week Great Lent meal plan here

4. Great Lent starts the Monday before Ash Wednesday. 

Many Roman Catholics are surprised to learn that Byzantine Rite Catholics don’t celebrate Ash Wednesday. But there’s actually a good reason for that!  Ash Wednesday developed as a custom in the Christian West, while the Monday that begins the Eastern Christian Great Lent is called “Clean Monday.” That’s because our pantries are traditionally clean of non- fasting foods, and hopefully our hearts are clean from sin, too, so we can begin this sacred liturgical season with pure hearts and a disposition that focuses on God. Usually in the United States, by the time Ash Wednesday comes along, Byzantine Rite Catholics have already been observing Great Lent for two days.

But not always! And that brings us to the next point: 

5. Easter Can Land On Different Days

In the United States, the vast majority of Eastern Catholics follow the Gregorian calendar, so that Roman Catholics and Eastern Catholics will be celebrating Easter (known more frequently in Eastern Catholicism as “Pascha”) together, on the same day. However, a few Byzantine Rite Catholic parishes in the USA and almost all Byzantine Rite Catholic parishes abroad follow the Julian or Revised Julian calendars, which calculate the day of Easter differently. This ends up being the same day that Eastern Orthodox Christians in the United
States and around the world also celebrate Easter. 

This means that, for most years, those following the Julian or Revised Julian calendars will be celebrating Easter—and therefore starting Lent—a week after Roman Catholics do. However, some years Easter will serendipitously fall on the same day on all calendars, and some years the Julian/Revised Julian Easter will be almost a month behind. 

Post continues after this brief information about the Catholic Icing Monthly Membership


Monthly Liturgical Membership

Catholic Liturgical Monthly Membership

Perfect for families! Each month you gain access to printable activity pages, crafts, home altar pieces, and more.
 
Never has living the liturgical year been so easy and affordable!
 

Catholic Popes and Bishops over the years have tried to work out a way to find a common date for Easter, so that all Christians around the world could finally celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection on the same day every year. Until that happens, though, some Byzantine Rite Catholics will be celebrating it on a different day. 

6. It Includes A Special Liturgy 

One of the most beautiful parts of Great Lent is attending our Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, sometimes just called “Presanctified Liturgy.” This takes place on certain weekdays during the Lenten season.

This beautiful, ancient Liturgy originated because Byzantine Rite Catholics don’t celebrate the anaphora, or Eucharistic prayer, at Divine Liturgies during Lent, except on Sundays. Because the Divine Liturgy is such a joyful celebration of the Resurrection, it wasn’t considered in keeping with the somber and penitent attitude we keep during Great Lent, so Divine Liturgy itself was only celebrated on Sundays. However, more frequent reception of Communion was still desired during the Lenten season, and so the Presanctified Liturgy came into being. 

The structure of this Liturgy is different from usual Divine Liturgy, and the reception of Communion is the result of the consecration of the Eucharist from the previous Sunday, kept in the tabernacle. It is a truly beautiful and unique liturgy that increases our appreciation for Great Lent.

——-

Visiting A Byzantine Catholic Parish

Remember that Roman Catholics are welcome to visit any Eastern Catholic parish, and are permitted to receive Communion at our parishes as well. Your attendance at one of our parishes on a Sunday would also fulfill your Sunday obligation, so please feel free to come and see! 

Being in communion with one another is a great gift, and our differences can be mutually celebrated and respected. Hopefully in understanding the Byzantine Rite observation of Great Lent a little more fully, you can also grow to appreciate your own Roman Catholic observation of Lent a little more, too.

Byzantine Lenten Calendar 

If you’re looking for a way to following along Great Lent with your kids, check out this Byzantine Lenten Calendar that is free to print!

Eastern Catholic Great Meal Plan

You can now download a completely free meal plan that is compliant for a traditional Great Lent fast! This is a fantastic resource for Eastern Catholic families as it can be a lot of work to plan those meals. It even includes shopping lists! You can grab your free Great Lent Meal Plan here now

More Resources:

You can find all of the Catholic Icing resources about Lent here

You can find more resources for Byzantine moms here

Author Of This Article:

Carrie Chuff is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children. As a young woman, she spent five years of formation in a Roman Catholic convent of active/contemplative religious Sisters whose apostolate included retreats and catechesis. After realizing God had other plans, she left and later met and married her husband, Derek. Eventually, they both rediscovered their Eastern Catholic heritage and embraced it fully as members of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, a Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Church which is in full Communion with Rome. She resides with her family in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

You can find Carrie’s charming videos about her time in the convent and more on her TikTok page and you can follow her Instagram here.

Comments

  1. Bobbi Wright says

    God has called Carrie to Catholic Icing! Her writing is so reader-centric. She writes for Roman Catholics while describing her rich tapestry of Eastern Catholicism. She writes so clearly for those unfamiliar with her worship practices. We are all Catholics and she keeps that focus…one Church. It makes me think of the Church as a neighborhood with our own “flavors.” It was very interesting to read of the differences while acknowledging our universal sameness. Thank you and God Bless.

  2. Thank you for this! I have been using Catholic Icing for years. As a Ukrainian Catholic, it warms my heart to see our traditions cooperating without losing ourselves to each other, but only to Christ. Glory to Jesus Christ! Слава Ісусу Христу!

Share a Comment

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.