Open to me the gates of repentance, O Giver of Life, for early in the morning my spirit hastens to Your holy temple, bringing the temple of my body all defiled. But as one compassionate, cleanse me, I pray, by Your loving-kindness and mercy.Idiomela Hymn of the Triodion Orthros
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Starting tomorrow, we are entering into the heights of our liturgical life, spiritual experiences and discipline of prayer. The Triodion Period, given its name from the Book of Hymns which guide us through pre-Lent, Lent, Holy Week, Pascha and post-Paschal worship, is a month-long preparation for Great and Holy Lent.
Lent is an opportunity for reflection, repentance, strength, focus, maturity, and mostly, love for Christ. The values gained and lessons learned are received not through a collection of obligatory actions, but rather a deep commitment to the soul and a strong desire to be in the presence of our Lord.
Please take the time to intimately familiarize yourselves with the Gospel Lessons for the next four Sundays. They will set the pace, standard and direction of your Lenten Journey.
Unlike last year, we hopefully and prayerfully expect to begin and end our steps to Pascha with a full complement of services with live worship throughout. I greatly look forward to preparations and planning for the Divine Services Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha.
Sunday, May 2nd, the Day of Pascha will be here soon enough. Until then, let’s start with our spiritual “baby steps:” the Triodion Sundays.
February 21: Publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14)
This Sunday emphasizes humility as a key attitude for repentance. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia, which means a change of mind. To repent we must not boast of our spiritual feats, but humble ourselves like the Publican who longs for a change of mind. We are called to learn this secret of the inward poverty of the Publican rather than the self-righteousness of the Pharisee who is convinced of his perfectness and not open to change because of his pride. There is no prescribed fasting for this week.
February 28: Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
This Sunday teaches us about our need to return from exile. This parable shows us the mercy of the Father who with open arms receives his son, whose behavior he does not return, but is joyous of his return home. We are encouraged to examine ourselves in the period of Lent to purge ourselves of sin and “come home.”
The week that follows is called Meat Week (Kreatini) as it is the last week we are to eat meat. The normal rule of fasting are applied to this week, fast on Wednesday and Friday.
Saturday of this week is the first Saturday of Souls where those who have fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection and eternal life are remembered at a special service “Saturday of the Souls.” Parishioners bring small dishes of Kollyva to the church and submit a list of first names of deceased ones to the priest. We commend to God all those who have departed before us, who are now awaiting the Last Judgment. This is an expression of the Churches love. We remember them because we love them.
March 7: Judgment (Meat-fare) Sunday (Matt 25:31-46)
This Sunday emphasizes the Last Judgment. We are reminded of our individual responsibility for love. We are encouraged not to eat meat this week, but we can eat eggs, cheese and other dairy products.
March 14: Forgiveness (Cheese-Fare) Sunday (Matt 6:14-21)
This Sunday emphasizes forgiveness and how we must forgive others if God is to forgive us so we can break the chains of sinful tendency which we inherit from the Adam and Eve. This is the last day of preparation as the traditional Lenten fast begins on the following day where no meat, dairy or eggs are to be eaten according to the Church tradition.
March 15: Great Lent Begins
Great Lent is the period that the Church has in her wisdom set aside for us to intensify our own spiritual growth through fasting, prayer and worship. If you follow the Church guidelines on fasting, make time to attend the services and intensify your own prayer life, you will be rewarded with a greater closeness to God.
Once again, I am ever-grateful that we will be together this year for worship. In time, God willing, everything else will follow.
With Much Love in XC,
Fr. Anthony Savas