Last year I was told that the Orthodox do not participate in movies and TV during Lent. Fine -- I assumed it had to do with the fact that new movies/TV are egregiously filled with sin, and Lent is the time of year to avoid sin even more so than usual. There is no canon prohibiting movies, but this practice could be inferred from the principles of Lent. However I still assumed that watching a G rating movie would be fine. It wasn't the TV/movies per se, but the sin involved in the majority of it.

Today I just heard that the Orthodox also do not participate in secular music during Lent. Initially I suspected that, yes, the lyrics in the majority of new secular music are egregiously filled with sin, so an inference could be made to prohibit secular music during Lent. However, non-lyrical music, specifically classical music, or "G rated" lyrical music, can't seem to me to fit into this category.

Has there ever been any actual proclamation made by the Church regarding music and TV during Lent? If so, is it a total fast from all movies and secular music, or simply from those which perpetuate sinful activity? Or am I missing the point here -- is it not necessarily to do with the sin in movies/music but more about denying yourself the pleasure of movies and music?

Is there any evidence at all to back up the notion that an Orthodox should avoid music or movies during Lent, aside from the fact that one should avoid sin during Lent, of which most new music and movies are deeply intertwined with?

  • First, when talking about Orthodox Christians, "made by the Church" will refer to a lot of different churches, whose opinions will vary. Secondly, as DJClayworth said below, abstaining from music and TV isn't about the sin involved, but more about keeping your focus on God and away from worldly pleasures.
    – Bobo
    May 29, 2014 at 0:51

4 Answers 4


I know very little about the Orthodox church, but I am familiar with Lenten practices of other churches.

Lent is not a time for giving up things which are sinful. Things which are sinful are bad for you, and should be 'given up' all the time. In other words if movies (or music) 'perpetuate sinful activity', then they should be avoided at all times, not just during Lent. One should not "avoid sin during Lent" - one should avoid sin all the time.

What many people do during Lent is to give up something which is not in itself bad. Things like chocolate, sugar, coffee or meat (all popular choices) are not bad in themselves. But abstaining from them for a time allows a person to focus more on God, to become more self-disciplined and to better identify with people who don't have the kind of resources and luxury as us. Movies or music might well fall into this category. However these choices are usually personal and not something prescribed by the church.

P.S. Some people do indeed use Lent as a starting point to give up some sinful activity they have previously been doing - but the purpose is always to continue avoiding it after Lent is over, not to go back to the sin.

  • I probably didn't make this clear, but Orthodox attempt to abstain from sinful thoughts, both voluntary and involuntary, during Lent. I believe the prohibition on movies has to do with removing those from your thoughts. Mar 16, 2014 at 20:04

Apostle Paul

For the time will come ... they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy)

Sixth Ecumenical Council - canon 51

This holy and ecumenical synod altogether forbids those who are called “players,” and their “spectacles,” as well as the exhibition of hunts, and the theatrical dances. If any one despises the present canon, and gives himself to any of the things which are forbidden, if he be a cleric he shall be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off.

Note: Whose shall play as an actor or shall attend theatrical representations or hunts shall be cut off. Should he be a cleric he shall be deposed.


I was baptized Orthodox in infancy and this is the first time I see this mentioned. No doubt it is good practice, but I've never seen any other Orthodox here avoid films or music during Lent. There's nothing wrong with pleasure as far as I'm aware; it is only sinful acts that tie you to this world that are to be avoided and most of them are accompanied with what many would call pleasure. For example, I see nothing wrong with watching Ostrov (The Island) during Lent or other films with scripts that avoid demonstrating people's passions.

Iulian's answer below came to my notice later. He is correct in that the young Church set rules to excommunicate those who participate in certain acts endorsed by pagans. I also tend to avoid watching films in general without being aware of this rule, because acting, even without the sinful passions demonstrated in abundance, is pretending, if the actor's normal behaviour deviates from the role he follows, therefore makes him accustomed to hypocrisy and the viewer to lies about things ranging from people's behaviour to physical phenomena. Also, actors tend to have all sorts of passions, such as vanity, pride, and live frivolously, which exposes people that regard them as idols to serious danger for their souls. An example of this, in an argument I once had with an atheist, is a film that he would propose to support that the New Testament does not describe Christ's life accurately to the point that Christians believe in lies. Visual stimulation often makes people lose their critical skills, among others.

Happy Easter!

  • Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your post, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites? Mar 31, 2014 at 20:20
  • Thanks. Perhaps I should state that the priests I know never mentioned such a restriction during Lent, to make my answer sound less subjective?
    – auxsvr
    Mar 31, 2014 at 20:37
  • @auxsvr that would be good, but the first sentence is credible enough for me, at least. Thanks for the insight. Ostrov is a great movie btw! Mar 31, 2014 at 22:09

Historically in the Roman Catholic Church, operas were abstained during Lent. Since Italians loved their opera so much, they allowed Handel to write his oratorio, Messiah, to get satisfy that need. Over time, how people fast and abstain during Lent seems to have lessened. I believe that efforts are put into works of love are emphasized rather than just abstaining. Or when something is abstained, that time is used to perform acts of love. The whole point is to become more like Christ.

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