First week of Great Lent
The First Week of Great Lent is kept with particular reverence and dedication in Holy Trinity Monastery. Classes are not held all week so that seminarians may attend the full cycle of services. Few places, and even few monasteries keep such a rigorous rule. Beginning with Midnight office at 5am, Matins, First Hour, and a Litya for the reposed follow, with no abbreviations. A short break is followed by Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours, Typica, and Vespers (on Wednesday and Friday combined with Presanctified Liturgy). The Psalter is read in full twice through the week. The readings, including the Ascetical Homilies of St. Ephraim the Syrian, Palladius, The Synaxarion, and The Ladder of Divine Ascent are interspersed throughout the services in their appointed places. There is so much rich hymnography concerning the meaning of the fast, so much ascetical instruction for those who thirst for God, that an illiterate man could learn everything he needed to know simply by standing in Church. A seminarian can learn this and more. He absorbs the order of the services and begins to ascertain the harmony of their construction.
After the morning services, a fasting meal is served in the trapeza, once per day.
In the evenings, the familiar Great Compline with the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read and sung from two kliroses. In fact, all week two choirs sing antiphonally. One hears melodies and singing of services almost unknown outside of monasteries. For example, the Biblical odes are sung in Matins and later, the troparia of the hours emphasize the meaning of each hour.
Having asked forgiveness of one another on Forgiveness Sunday, a week of sincere repentance is kept to prepare for Holy Communion on Saturday, the first Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in Great Lent. One hopes that in beginning this way, one will keep the entire fast with reverence in hope and expectation to meet the bright feast of Holy Pascha with great joy.
It is very noteworthy that our great and holy pastor, the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus, reposed at the end of Clean Week the morning of the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 2008, having asked for forgiveness, having prayed, fasted, and received Holy Communion. May his memory be eternal.Photogallery: