Icon of The Pharisee and the Publican

Today is the first Sunday of a three-week period before Great Lent in the Orthodox Church. This is a preparatory time for the spiritual journey of Lent. It is a time that Orthodox Christians attempt to draw closer to God through worship, prayer, fasting, and acts of charity(Note: This is not the only time we do that - it’s just a time we set in the church year to be particularly mindful of it.) The Triodion, a special liturgical book used during the Lenten period, will be used today as it contains the hymns, prayers, and services of Lent held between this Sunday and Pascha Sunday. ...continue reading "Sunday Reflections – The Publican and the Pharisee"

This past Monday marked the first day of Great Lent.  Lent is a spiritual journey leading us to Pascha (Easter).  At Pascha we celebrate Christ's resurrection not as a mere historical event but as something that not only happened, but something that continues to happen to us!  In Christ's resurrection, He enables us to walk in the newness of life.  All of us received the gift of new life and we each have the ability to accept the gift and live by it.

While there are 6 weeks and Holy Week to prepare us for Pascha there are also 5 weeks to prepare us for Lent - each dedicated to a fundamental aspect of repentance:

  1.   Sunday of Zacchaeus  (Luke 19: 1-10) - focusing on the desire to do the right thing
  2.  Sunday of the Publican & The Pharisee  (Luke 18:10-14) - focusing on humility
  3.  Sunday of  the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) - focusing on return from exile or repentance
  4. Meat- Fare Sunday (Matthew 25: 31-46) -  focusing on The Last Judgment & Christian Love
  5.  Cheese-Fare Sunday (Matthew 6:14-21) - focusing on Forgiveness

Lent actually begins during Vespers on Forgiveness Sunday, also known as Cheese-Fare Sunday.  This is one of my favorite services of the season.   It begins with a solemn Vespers service, but when the announcement of the evening Prokeimenon is made (usually symbolizing the end of one day and the beginning of another), it is also the beginning of Lent. At the end of this service, all of the faithful go up to the priest, one by one, and the priest and each person ask one another for mutual forgiveness, and continue around the church asking each person present for mutual forgiveness.

Each Lent I make goals for the Lenten Season.  Last  year, I didn't fare so well.  Hopefully this year will be better.  My personal goals involve reading -  I had actually started the reading during the two weeks prior to Lent beginning so hopefully I will attain the goals! The books I am reading for Lent are as follows:

1.  Help! I'm Bored In Church : Entering Fully Into The Divine Liturgy  - I'm not sure that I would say I am bored in Church, but I do feel that the last year or so have taken its effect on me and that I am not as attentive as I should be.  I'm hoping this book, written by an Orthodox Priest,  will help refocus me.  I'm not that far into it but am enjoying it thus far.

2.  Forgive Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hurt and Hate - I saw this book 'advertised' on a blog site and couldn't resist.  It is said to help forgiveness with all relationships, not just parental figures.  So far, I'd say it is well written.

3.  One Thousand Gifts Devotional - I read One Thousand Gifts a couple of years ago for Lent and began my own gratitude journal.  I have not yet reached 1000 but am working on it!  This devotional covers 60 reflections including one on anxiety that really spoke to me!

4.  Great Lent:  Journey To Pascha -  I have tried to read this one several times...for some reason I never seem to get through it- another reason I started early this year!  I am already through the parts I've read before so it's looking good! 🙂

4.  The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Woman's Monastery  -  Assuming I finish the first two on the list, this is the next in line for me.  It's been on my Amazon wish list and I finally bought it.  Apparently, the author,  Constantina Palmer made frequent pilgrimages to a women's monastery in Greece and writes of the nuns' particular approach to their spiritual life.  It sounds magnificent!

5.  The Gospel of Luke: Good News for the Poor - I doubt that I will finish this bible commentary by Lawrence Farley during Lent but I haven't read one in a while and decided Lent was a good time to do so!  I only read a few segments a day because I like to mull it over before going on.

What goals or activities do you like to do during Lent as you prepare for Pascha (Easter)?