Before Great Lent begins, four Sunday lessons prepare us for the Fast. Humility is the theme of the first Sunday, called the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Lord’s parable in Luke 18:10-14 teaches that fasting with pride is rejected by God. For this reason, there is no fasting the week following this Sunday. This includes no fasting on Wednesday and Friday that week. (Wednesdays and Fridays are usually fast days throughout the year—Wednesday’s Fast recalls the betrayal of Christ by Judas; Friday’s Fast commemorates the Lord’s Crucifixion.) Repentance is the theme of the second Pre-Lenten Sunday, called the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Before we can return to God, we need to recognize that we are far from God because of sin. Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), we are in a self-imposed exile. Will we come to our senses as did the Prodigal Son and return to our Father? The next Sunday is called both Meatfare Sunday and the Sunday of the Last Judgment. The second name refers to the Gospel lesson (Matthew 25:31-4 6) read on this day. The Lord tells us we will be judged at the end according to the love we have shown for our brother. “I was hungry..thirsty..naked…a stranger…in prison…sick… Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine you did for Me.” Almsgiving goes hand in hand with fasting. This Sunday is called Meatfare because it is the last day meat, fish or poultry is eaten before Easter, for those keeping the Lenten Fast. The last Pre-Lenten Sunday is called both Cheesefare Sunday and the Sunday of Forgiveness. This is the last day dairy products are eaten before the Fast. The Gospel lesson (Matthew 6:14-21 ) read on this day tells us that our fast must not be hypocritical or “for show.” Our work and our appearance are to continue as usual and our extra efforts are to be known only by God. The Gospel reading also reminds us that God the Father will forgive us in the same manner as we forgive our brother. With this promise of forgiveness, Great Lent begins on the next day, which is called Clean Monday. Clean Monday is a total fast day, except for a little water. No other beverages or food are taken.