A Series of Articles for Ongoing Adult Christian Education to help
“strengthen the religious and moral life of our parishioners…”
The Sundays of Lent
The mission of our parish is to keep, practice, and proclaim the Word of God and strengthen the religious and moral life of our parishioners in accordance with the Holy Traditions and Canons of the Church in its fullness as faithful members of the Body of Christ. (Parish Mission Statement)
Last month I focused on the themes of the Sundays preceding the Great Fast (Lent). We have two more installments to cover… well actually, three. The Sundays of Lent, Holy Week, and the Sundays from Pascha through Pentecost.
First, a trivia question in two parts– Q. How long is Lent, and when is it over? A: If you said Lent is 40 days long, you would be correct. If you said it is over at Pascha, you would be wrong… Lent begins from “Clean Monday” (March 2 this year). Forty days later is Friday, April 10, right before the Saturday of Lazarus (take out your calendar and count for yourself). The Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday are feast days of sorts, with fish being permitted on Palm Sunday. This gives us a brief respite from the lenten fast before entering the strictest fast period of the year – Holy Week.
The Sundays of Lent each have a special theme to aid us in our preparation for Pascha. They are:
The Sunday of Orthodoxy This Sunday commemorates the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”in the victory over Iconoclasm and the restoration of the veneration of icons in Constantinople in 843 A.D., after the 7th Ecumenical Council (787 A.D.) declared Icons to be appropriate forms of veneration.
St. Gregory Palamas The second triumph of Orthodoxy. The condemnation of St. Gregory’s enemies and the vindication of his teachings by the Church in the 14th Century. The defense of the Orthodox faith.
Veneration of the Cross The meaning of Christ’s Sacrifice. Also, we are in mid-Lent. We no longer see the cross in terms of suffering and death, but rather of victory and joy. Therefore as we venerate the cross taken in procession around the church, we are given help and encouragement to continue the fast.
St. John of the Ladder We must continue with steadfastness and hope if we are to complete the race. We must not lose heart nor allow ourselves to relax, lest we stumble and fall and lose all we have hoped for.
St. Mary of Egypt Faith can change a person. Look at this example of one so worldly, who was literally changed in a moment, and who dedicated the remainder of her life (over 40 years) to the Lord, fasting and praying in the desert.
Christianity is not just a religion, but an experience of life. It is not based just on ideals of an honorable man, but on the relationship with the real God of the Universe. Christianity has an experiential intimacy between God and Mankind at it’s core, and an individual personal relationship with a loving Lord. The themes of the weeks of Lent help us re-focus our lives and thoughts on this personal relationship. Lent offers us time for spiritual cleansing and re-commitment to Christ our God as Lord of our lives. It is a special time for each of us to “wash” our souls and “cleanse” our hearts as we prepare once again for receiving our Lord into our lives as we celebrate His resurrection from the dead.