This following week, Cheese-fare week, it is customary to eat "cheese fare," i.e., milk products and eggs. With the exception of meat, it is a fast-free week, although it is desirable to observe the Wednesday and Friday fasts until evening. Cheese-fare week is popularly regarded as a week of entertaining and indulging in the butteriest foods. The church services for this week recall the fall of Adam and Eve-the result of indulgence. On Cheese-fare Saturday, the Church commemorates "all the righteous who shone forth in the ascetic life"-in fasting and prayer. It is a week to use up what dairy products we have in the house before Great Lent, to begin paring down our food intake, not to stuff ourselves as if we were going to starve for the next forty days. We enter Great Lent with the rite of forgiveness following vespers on Cheese-fare Sunday. Clergy and laity ask one another's forgiveness, and then the priest blesses everyone for their journey through the Great Fast. Strengthening ourselves with the desire of Zacchaeus, the humility of the publican, the resolve of the Prodigal Son, sobriety at the thought of God's righteous judgment and the lesson of Adam's expulsion from Paradise, we are well equipped "for the noble contest of the Fast."
"Let us set out with
joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual
combat. Let us purify our soul and
cleanse our flesh; and as we fast from food, let us abstain also from
passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of
the Spirit may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see
solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to
His holy Passover." Vespers on the Sunday of Forgiveness.
(Adapted from 'Preparing for Great Lent' as published in Orthodox America)