Archive for March, 2013

Brother Stavros of New Skete on the calendar differences between the Eastern and Western churches:



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Forgiveness Sunday

As we enter into Great Lent, I do not have much about which to blog so I will let this Lenten prayer speak for itself:

In the spirit of Forgiveness Vespers, a very moving service which I will unfortunately miss this Sunday, I ask all my readers to forgive me, a sinner, and I say to all of you, God forgives, and so do I.

A blessed and holy Lent to all.

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As I write this post, I am in the midst of “Cheesefare Week”, the week prior to Great Lent in which dairy products are permitted to be consumed, but “fleshmeats” (i.e. meat, poultry, and seafood) are not. Of course, most Western Christians are well into Lent by now, but because of the calendar difference, for Orthodox Christians, Great Lent will begin this year on Monday, March 18th. (To confuse matters even further, the relatively small community of Western-Rite Orthodox will celebrate Ash Wednesday on March 20th.) On the Byzantine calendar, this Monday is known as “Clean Monday”, an official holiday in many predominantly Orthodox countries, since this is the Monday by which one’s pantry must be cleaned of all foods that are not in keeping with the Lenten fast. For those who follow the canons strictly, one must fast from all “fleshmeats” (meat, poultry, and seafood), dairy, eggs, alcohol, and certain oils and fats. (According to some traditions, only olive oil is abstained from; in others, all vegetable oils.). In practice, Orthodoxy recognizes a “ladder of observance”, and each individual Orthodox Christian consults with his or her father confessor in order to determine what level of fasting is reasonable and appropriate for his or her circumstances. The majority of Orthodox Christians will at minimum abstain from meat and poultry during most of Lent, and will generally make a special effort to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.

In addition to fasting, Orthodox Christians are also asked to give more attention to prayer and almsgiving. There are many additional services during Lent, including the Liturgy of the Presancitfied (basically Vespers combined with communion from the reserved sacrament, celebrated during the weekdays of Great Lent) and the Akathist to the Theotokos (a service of Marian devotion celebrated Friday evenings during Great Lent). Orthodox Christians also take on a stricter private prayer discipline and may undertake some spiritual reading as well. Giving to charity is also customary during Great Lent.

To add one additional liturgical note, Western Christians (including the Western-Rite Orthodox mentioned above) do not use the Alleluia or the Great Doxology (“Glory to God in the Highest”) during Lent, but this is not the case in the Byzantine Rite. In fact, Alleluias are used quite frequently in Lenten services in the Byzantine Rite, but the are chanted in a Lenten tone. (An independent Catholic priest friend of mine refers to this as “A-word minor”.) 

An example of “A-word minor”:


Open To Me The Doors Of Repentance (a Lenten hymn):


A blessed and fruitful Lent to all!

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