Saturday, 26 February 2011

Services for Great Lent

Services for Great Lent
There are so many opportunities during Great Lent to experience the most wonderful and rich prayers of our Holy Orthodox Church within the beautiful and ancient services set for this holy season.

We begin on Sunday 6th March at 6pm with Vespers and the forgiveness prayers. We should not dare to enter into the warfare of Great Lent without first asking forgiveness of each other and giving forgiveness in return. We are not beginning a “diet”, but rather we are embarking upon a battle with the spiritual forces which are determined to keep us in submission. The Victory is already won by the Death and Resurrection of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, but we have the battles to fight against pride, jealousy, lust, idle talk, curiosity, idleness and self-will. Unless we are armed with forgiveness, love, prayer, generosity and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, we cannot help but fail.

During the first week, the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete is divided into daily sections within the service of Great Compline. This Canon is a wonderful examination of our own sinful tendencies in prayerful consideration of the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures. It is served fully with Matins on the Thursday of the fifth week of Lent.

The Great Canon is interrupted on the first Wednesday by the Divine Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts. The Holy Gifts, the Very Body and Blood of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, sanctified at the Sunday Liturgy by the descent of the Holy Spirit have been kept to be received today. This is a very intense, quiet and moving service. At the Great Entrance today we kneel, and only at this service of the Pre-Sanctified, because it is not bread and wine which is being carried by the priest but Jesus Himself. We should fast and pray in order to partake of the Holy Gifts; fasting from noon onwards and saying the Canon of Preparation for Holy Communion.

On the Fridays of Great Lent we sing the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos, divided into parts for the first four weeks, then as a whole on the fifth Friday. This year interrupted on March 25th by the Feast of the Annunciation. Akathist means “not sitting” because we honour the Mother of God by standing for the whole of the Akathist. During this service, set within the service of Little Compline, the priest remembers the names of all those given to him for intercession.

Please write legibly and hand in names well in advance of the beginning of the service

At the end of the first week comes the first Sunday of Great Lent, the Sunday of Holy Orthodoxy, when we celebrate the return of the Holy Icons after the long and violent periods of persecution and iconoclasm. We bring our home icons to church and carry them prayerfully in procession after the Liturgy. We welcome all the saints, in the Holy Icons, as they share the Liturgy with us and walk triumphantly into our parish.

The Synodicon: The Affirmation of the Orthodox Faith.

As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ has awarded: thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach Christ our true God, and honour His saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons; on the one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honouring as true servants of the same Lord of all, and accordingly offering them veneration.
This is the Faith of the Apostles; this is the Faith of the Fathers; this is the Faith of the Orthodox; this is the Faith which has established the universe!