Dear Parish Faithful,
Great Lent 2019
Great Lent for 2019 is "right around the corner," so I am trying to keep ahead of our schedule by providing some hopefully useful pastoral directives and suggestions as we prepare for the season.
THE RULES OF FASTING — Please read through this attachment on Lenten Fasting to better understand the nature of the fast that we are directed to observe during Great Lent. Yet, in addition to the fasting discipline, I also include some pastoral considerations on how we can approach the fast in a constructive and spiritually-healthy manner either as individuals or within our families. The "spirit" of the fast is meant to transcend the "letter" of the fast. We have a If you are new to this and would like some further pastoral directives, please contact me.
LITURGICAL SERVICES — There are services that are unique to Great Lent, meaning that this is the only time in the entire year that we use these particular liturgical services. There are also changes within our established services - usually in the form of specific lenten hymnography and appointed scriptural readings - but I will focus on the full services that characterize lenten worship:
+ The Canon of Repentance by St. Andrew of Crete — This Canon is divided into four parts and served during the first four evenings of Great Lent, and that would be Monday through Thursday, March 11-14 this year. I not only encourage you, but urge everyone to make a real attempt to be present at least on one of these evenings. Beginning Great Lent through this intense and highly personal plea of repentance can "set the tone" for the entire forty days. Each evening, the service will begin at 7:00 p.m. and last a little over an hour. I would also encourage parents to bring their children to this service if and when possible. This is equivalent to planting seeds that will remain with them all through their lives. The atmosphere in the church is quiet, prayerful and focused.
+ The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts — This unique lenten service is celebrated on Wednesday evenings during Great Lent beginning at 6:00 p.m. The one exception is in the first week, when it is reserved for Friday evening so as to allow for all four parts of the Canon mentioned above. With the exception of the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25), the eucharistic consecration is not allowed during the weekdays of Great Lent (the absence of the Bridegroom), but we receive the Eucharist from the gifts "presanctified" - or consecrated - at the previous Sunday Liturgy reserved on the altar table for that purpose. We then receive the eucharistic gifts at this service as the children of Israel ate of the manna in the wilderness to sustain and strengthen them through the wilderness. After the service we break the fast with a pot-luck lenten meal that also allows for some fellowship.
+ The Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos — This service is celebrated on Friday evenings during Great Lent. As with the Canon of Repentance, it is broken up into four parts and then sung and chanted in its entirety on the Fifth Friday of Great Lent. It is the masterpiece of Byzantine hymnography dedicated to praising the Theotokos in an endless variety of titles and images. Though never that well-attended, you may want to consider "something different/new" by way of expanding your lenten experience.
CONFESSION OF SINS — Confession is a major part of our "lenten effort," and for many this is the only time of year that some will participate in sacramental confession. That is not a good practice, but at least a recognition of the importance of Great Lent and one's need to confess. Perhaps my greatest pastoral challenge during Great Lent is to "work in" all of these confessions in forty days. Without doing the math, that must be at least one hundred and fifty or more when including age-appropriate children together with adults. That is why I reserve the hours between 9:00 a.m - Noon every Saturday during Great Lent, to be in the church to hear confessions. This is a good time to schedule an appointment for Confession, especially for families with children/young adults. Otherwise, there is before or after Great Vespers on Saturday, or any other time during the week if you let me know ahead of time. For those of you who come to church but do not participate in the Sacraments of Confession and Communion, here is a "golden opportunity" to renew your life in the Church.
ORTHODOX LITERATURE — Everyone who is literate should read a good piece of Orthodox literature during Great Lent together with reading the Holy Scriptures. And during Great Lent I would stress Orthodox literature. We are responsible to know our Faith as well as possible. As we pray, give alms, and fast, expanding our knowledge of our shared Orthodox Faith is a "good thing." The choices of good books are virtually limitless these days. If you would like some suggestions about a good book, please feel free to ask me. We now have our parish bookstore reopened, and our parish library has an excellent choice of books. An excellent choice that I spent a few minutes promoting last Sunday during the post-Liturgy discussion is Peter Bouteneff's How to be a Sinner. This would make good lenten reading as Dr. Bouteneff explores what it means to self-identify as a "sinner." As he wrote in The Introduction: "The thesis of this short book is that there are realistic, useful, and healthy ways to understand ourselves within the dynamic of sin - just as there are also destructive and unhelpful ways. The goal is to help us find and walk a well-directed path through critical self-reflection, in freedom, joy and divine grace, and mercy." The book basically unpacks that thesis in a very accessible and helpful manner. Highly recommended!
A very rich Season indeed!