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Orthodox Meatfare Sunday – February 19, 2023

Orthodox Meatfare Sunday is observed by Orthodox Christians on the third Sunday as defined by the Lenten Triodion. This year, it falls on February 19. It can only mean one thing for millions of Orthodox Christians worldwide — it’s the last day they can eat meat until ‘Pascha’ or Easter. What follows after this Sunday is several weeks of prayer and community, of forgiveness and seeking it. Orthodox Christians believe prayer, service to others, and shedding the self bring you closer to God. We’re particularly drawn to one of the day’s core tenets — a peaceful, clean slate. Perhaps today is the day we achieve it.

History of Orthodox Meatfare Sunday

Orthodox Meatfare Sunday is a part of the Lenten Season observed by millions of Orthodox Christians, also known as Eastern Orthodox Christians. The season marks the start of the Great Fast before Easter (‘Pascha’). In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Paschal Cycle helps everyone stay on the path of fasting, penance, prayer, and charity work. One could call the cycle a calendar that revolves around Easter. It comprises various phases: pre-Lent, Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pentecostarion periods. With the passing of each phase, Christians move closer to spirituality and God.

During this period, the faithful follow a series of traditional steps. The “cycle of the moveable feasts” is integral to this tradition. Sundays usually signal the next phase in the Paschal Cycle with a special commemoration around the Gospel Reading assigned for the day. Orthodox Meatfare Sunday falls during the three weeks before Great Lent. This Sunday is traditionally the last day to eat meat before Easter.

The Greek Orthodox Church emphasizes the Gospel of Matthew on this day, also known as the Sunday of the Last Judgment. Even though it sounds ominous, the parable of the Last Judgment has a decidedly different message. It points out that Jesus Christ will judge people on love, specifically how deeply you care for others and share God’s love. Far from hellfire or brimstone, the spirit on this Sunday is one of repentance and making amends. One week later is Cheesefare Sunday, where Orthodox Christians give up dairy products until ‘Pascha.’ And after this Sunday, the period of Great Lent begins in earnest.

Orthodox Meatfare Sunday timeline

301 A.D.
The Byzantine Empire and Eastern Christianity

Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) becomes the center of Eastern Christianity.

6th Century
The Most Famous Orthodox Church

The Church of Hagia Sophia is built and later known as the Holy Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.

1054 A.D.
The Schism with Rome

Churches of the East and West grow apart due to cultural, political, and linguistic differences. 

2018
Another Rift

The Russian Orthodox Church cuts ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Orthodox Meatfare Sunday FAQs

What is the Orthodox Sunday service called?

The Sunday service in the Orthodox Church is called the Divine Liturgy. Worshippers receive the bread and wine (Communion) during the service. 

Why is it called Cheesefare Sunday?

Devout Orthodox Christians give up dairy products on Cheesefare Sunday or Forgiveness Sunday. Besides cheese, they also give up wine, fish, and olive oil during Lent.

What does Orthodox Easter celebrate?

Orthodox Easter and Easter Sunday are both Christian festivals where believers celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only the ways of worship may differ between the different churches. 

How to Observe Orthodox Meatfare Sunday

  1. Eat less meat

    Eating less meat is good for us and decreases our risk of heart diseases and strokes. It’s a healthy lifestyle to commit to whether you’re observing Lent or not.

  2. Take time to reflect

    Orthodox Meatfare Sunday is as much about introspection as it is about fasting. Attend a Sunday service for inspiration. Or spend some time alone for clarity.

  3. Begin again

    In keeping with the spirit of Easter, start with a clean slate. Make amends with friends you’ve stopped speaking to or start supporting that cause that’s close to you again. 

5 Facts About Easter That Will Blow Your Mind

  1. The name has pagan origins

    The Christian holiday is named after ‘Eostre,’ the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility and light. 

  2. Decorating Easter eggs comes from Ukraine

    It’s a traditional Ukrainian practice that calls out to the goddesses and gods of health and fertility.

  3. Pretzels for Easter

    Since pretzels resembled arms crossed in prayer, eating them was a dinner tradition in Germany during the 1950s.

  4. Dancing is illegal on Good Friday

    Germany allows music, but dancing in public can cost you a fine.

  5. The most expensive Easter egg

    In 2007, a Fabergé Easter Egg sold for nearly $18 million at Christie’s, London. 

Why Orthodox Meatfare Sunday is Important

  1. It honors ancient traditions

    There’s wisdom in tradition and keeping them alive. Tradition equals community and belonging to something larger than ourselves. 

  2. Rewind, reset, and start again

    If you neglect your feelings and worry about the future, now is your opportunity to start again. The entire period of Lent is an opportunity to start afresh. 

  3. It builds willpower

    Giving up things we love is character-building stuff. Whether meat or other things, it makes us appreciate the things we love more.

Orthodox Meatfare Sunday dates

YearDateDay
2022February 27Sunday
2023February 19Sunday
2024March 10Sunday
2025February 23Sunday
2026February 15Sunday

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