40 Days with Isaiah 58: A Scripture-Memorization Journey and Other Resources for Lent
In the Orthodox Church, Lent starts in just three days!
If you’re like me, it’s difficult to know how to bring the Lenten spirit of prayer into one’s daily life–like the actual moments and activities of life. I’m prone to compartmentalization–checking the prayer part of my life off the list and moving on to the rest-of-my-life part of life.
One practice to break down these barriers is Scripture memorization. Selecting a long-ish passage to learn forces you to break it down into small pieces and work at it throughout a period of days and weeks.
What I like about memorizing is that it doesn’t require some kind of intellectual response or analysis. I am free to simply immerse myself in the verses and let them become a part of my being, almost like a kind of lectio divina. Reading the same verses over and over, letting the words become my own, gives my mind an anchor of prayer to return to in much the same way as the Jesus Prayer or other short prayers might.
This Lent, I am going to try to memorize Isaiah 58. It’s a manageable chapter (only 14 verses to memorize over 40 or so days) and sums up both the pitfalls of a hypocritical, prideful fast as well as the virtues of a God-seeking, humble fast. It’s also off the beaten path of the verses one traditionally memorizes if they were raised in the Evangelical world (as I was).
For anyone following along with my series on the 8 Evil Thoughts, the vices this passage alludes to parallel many of the same deadly thoughts and sin patterns. The promises of blessing and redemption this chapter imparts, too, provide renewed motivation to seek God with our whole hearts, from within and through the “sin that so easily entangles” (Heb 12:1).
If you’d like to join me, below you will find printable flashcards of this chapter using the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint translation (SAAS), a common translation in the Orthodox world. There are two files: a Lenten version (if you intend to memorize these verses during Orthodox Lent, whether in 2021 or in the future) and an “undated” version (if you would like to memorize these verses another time of year or during Western Lent). Cut the flashcards out old-school style and carry them with you to memorize each day! (Pro tip: I date the cards ahead of time so I don’t get lost, punch a hole in the top corner of each, and put them all on a single binder ring so they stay together and in the right order.)
Printable Flashcards of Isaiah 58
Isaiah 58: 1-14 – FULL TEXT (SAAS, from the Orthodox Study Bible)
- Cry aloud with strength, and spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their sins, and to the house of Jacob their lawlessness.
- They seek Me day by day, and desire to know My ways. As a people who did righteousness, and did not forsake the judgment of their God, they now ask Me about righteous judgment, and desire to draw near to God,
- saying, ‘Why have we fasted, but You did not see it? Why have we humbled our souls, but You did not know it?’ Because in the days of your fasts, you seek your own wills, and mistreat those under your authority.
- If you fast for condemnations and quarrels, and strike a humble man with your fists, why do you fast to Me as you do today, so your voice may be heard in crying?
- I did not choose this fast, and such a day for a man to humble his soul; nor if you should bow your neck like a ring and spread sackcloth and ashes under yourself, could you thus call such a fast acceptable.
- I did not choose such a fast,” says the Lord; “rather, loose every bond of wrongdoing; untie the knots of violent dealings; cancel the debts of the oppressed; and tear apart every unjust contract.
- Break your bread for the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house. If you see a naked man, clothe him, nor shall you disregard your offspring in your own household.
- Then your light shall break forth as the morning, and your healing shall spring forth quickly. Your righteousness shall go before you, and the glory of God shall cover you.
- Then you shall cry out, and God will hear you. While you are still speaking, He will say, ‘Behold, I am here.’ If you take away your fetter and the pointing of the finger, and the word of grumbling,
- and if you give bread to the hungry from your soul, and satisfy the humble soul, then your light shall rise up in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as midday.
- God shall be with you continually, and you shall be satisfied as your soul desires. Your bones shall be enriched, and you shall be like a well-watered garden and like a spring of water that does not fail. Your bones will arise and be enriched like a green plant, and they shall inherit generations of generations.
- Your ancient deserts shall be built, and your ancient foundations shall be from generation to generation. You shall be called Builder of Walls, and will rest on the paths within them.
- If you turn away your foot from work because of the Sabbath, so as not to do your desires on the holy day, and if you shall call the Sabbath joyful, holy to your God, and not take away your foot for work, nor speak a word in wrath from your mouth,
- then you shall trust in the Lord; and He will bring you to the good things of the land, and feed you with the inheritance of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken these things.
Other Resources for Orthodox Lent
Scripture memorization not your thing? Here are a free other resources to help integrate the spirit and disciplines of Lent into your daily life:
- Time and Despondency: I’ve heard from many that my first book, Time and Despondency: Regaining the Present in Faith and Life, makes good Lenten reading material. There’s even a free discussion and reflection guide that breaks it up into weekly Lenten reading chunks!
- Other fruitful books: I’ve you’ve already read T&D and liked it, here’s a list of books you might also enjoy. Any of them would make for excellent Lenten reading.
- Gratitude: Gratitude is a good habit to build any time of year, but particularly during Lent. Check out this beautiful 3-year sentence-a-day gratitude journal I helped produce with Ancient Faith.
- Time tracking: In past years, I’ve written about how time tracking has helped me get a better grip on how I spent (or waste) my time, and how this has benefitted my attitude towards the Lenten journey. Read more here or just skp to the time log I use here.
However they choose to live into the Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, I wish all who are embarking on Eastern Orthodox Lent a kali sarakosti – blessed forty days! (And a blessed 40 days to anyone who isn’t Lenting–one can never have enough blessing.)