This week marks the beginning of Great Lent, it is called the Clean Week. All of us wish to one another to have a blessed Lent. Great and Holy Lent begins tomorrow. In order to have a blessed Lent, we need not just a wish but also prayer. For this reason, during the forty days of preparation for Easter, the Church has instituted many wonderful and serene divine services, which enhance the Lenten experience of the faithful.
If nothing changes during these days, then we cannot claim that we celebrated a blessed Lent. If we did not prepare for Easter, then we cannot announce the Christ’s Resurrection is deemed as the most important event in our lives. For a conscious Lenten experience, we need to participate in the spiritual preparation of our holy Orthodox Tradition. An athlete practices fervently before a big game. We pray fervently before the championship of divine salvation. The Great Lent is the last stretch before the finish of a spiritual race, since the Resurrection is the most significant event for all faithful. Therefore, we put all our effort for this last stretch, so that we may be crowned as victors with the crown of holiness and redemption.
The first service of Great Lent is the Vespers of forgiveness. Before we go for confession to prepare for Easter, we ask forgiveness from our spiritual family and we offer forgiveness to our brothers and sisters in Christ. This way, we do not celebrate these days hypocritically or with a blemished consciousness. Clean Monday, marks the beginning of Lent with strict fasting (for everyone who is physically capable to observe fasting). Clean Week is a time for physical and spiritual cleansing, with fasting and confession. Clean Monday, we will have the Great Compline, which is a beautiful service, graced in richness of meaning and blessing. Every Monday, during Lent, we will be praying the service of the Great Compline to start the week with a beautiful, serene, evening prayer for all the faithful to find peace and rescue in their Church. Every Wednesday, we will be celebrating the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Divine Gifts. This way, the faithful will be receiving Holy Communion more frequently in preparation for the holiest time of the year. Every Friday, there will be a service of the Salutations to the Virgin Mary, glorifying and thanking the Mother of God who brought salvation into the world.
It is a painful observation to see that every year less and less people participate in the services of Lent. When the older ones depart, their seats are left vacant in the Church. Most Orthodox people have deducted their spiritual experience to Sunday morning, much like other (especially Protestant) denominations. Do not judge the younger generations if they assimilate in such a reality, thus losing the wealth of our blessed tradition. Do not condemn our children if they participate with enthusiasm to rock and rap concerts, but with boredom in services and prayers. Do not even blame them if they take upon dangerous habits, foul language and strange behavior. It is because they have not been motivated to have a conscious spiritual life. Try to inspire them to appreciate the beauty of our services, which transform them spiritually. What happens if we are tired after a long day? We find rest and peace in the serenity of the Church. What if we have studying and housework to do? We can do all that, plus the studying of the divine lessons, which are eternal and heavenly, thus much more important. This way, we may all graduate in Heaven. This way, we may all have a blessed Lent!
+Economos Nikiforos Fakinos