With Clean Monday begins Great Lent in the Orthodox Church and marks the end of feasting. Clean Monday is called as such because Christians are called to cleanse themselves spiritually and bodily. It is also a day of strict fasting with no work. The holy fast has a duration of 40 days in imitation of our Lord’s fast in the desert.
The first week of the Holy Forty Day Fast are “the days beginning the holy fast”. The Holy Church during this week, inviting its children to begin “the all honorable abstinence”, to work “for the Lord with fear”, to fast “the pleasant fast pleasing to the Lord”, to fast not only “in body” but also “in spirit” opens the purpose and meaning of “the all honorable fast”. “The Fast has come”, sings the holy Church in its hymns, “mother of chastity, accuser of sins, advocate of repentance, life of the angels and salvation of men”. “For by this Moses was glorified, and he received the Law written upon tablets”, “Elijah having fasted, was enclosed in heaven”, “through fasting the youths were delivered from the furnace and the Prophet Daniel from the jaws of the lions”; and “taking as shield the strong armor of the Fast, let us repel every delusion of the enemy. Let us not be led astray by the lusts of passion, let us not flinch before the fire of temptation”; “let us quench the burning passions of the flesh”, “Let us be pure before the Pure One, and seeking purity from all before the Only Savior of our souls”; “illumined by divine virtues, let us gaze with faith upon the radiance of the Passion of the Savior”, and “let us receive from Christ God great mercy”. Together with this the holy Church finds out in detail also the properties of true lent, as valid means for the cleansing of sin, as the basis of repentance, as the beginning of the return of the person to God. According to the teaching of the holy Church, “true fasting is to put away all evil, to control the tongue, to forbear from anger, to abstain from lust, slander, falsehood and perjury. If we renounce these things, then our fasting is true and acceptable”. Therefore, inviting its children to true repentance and lenten ascetic efforts, the holy Church also sings: “Clothing ourselves in the shining raiment of the Fast, let us cast off the dark and hateful garment of drunkenness”; “let us love chastity, and let us flee from fornication, let us gird our loins with temperance”, “let us wash our faces in the water of dispassion”, “let us loose every bond of iniquity, let us terminate the knots of every contract made by violence; let us tear up all unjust agreements; let us give bread to the hungry and to our house welcome the poor who have no roof to cover them”; “let us brightly begin the all honorable abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage.”