Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1. It is a season of instruction in the Christian Faith which centers primarily in the great mystery of Our Lord’s Suffering, Death and Resurrection and climaxes in the triduum sacrum (“holy three days”) of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.
Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Holy Lent, should be observed with worship in church. Mass will begin at 7 p.m., and will be preceded by “The Imposition Of Ashes.” As the ashes are applied, these words will be said: “Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” This ceremony reminds us both of the penalty of sin, and that we daily ought to put to death our sinful desires so that we might more fully embrace the newness of life given in Holy Baptism.
The Three Disciplines of Lent
Lent involves the practice of three disciplines as a preparation for the newness of life. This newness of life we celebrate with much joy at Easter, not only in the faithful remembrance of the Resurrection of Our Lord, but also in the spiritual resurrection of our lives from dead works to serve the living God. These three disciplines revolve around
- Increased prayer (public and private),
- unostentatious fasting or self-denial, and
- the sacrificial giving of alms (charitable donations).
All three Lenten disciplines form a unit in order to aid the Christian in his observance of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. For Christ’s advice in these matters, consult the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 6:1-21.
Extra public worship is a vital part of Lenten life, and our parishioners are given ample opportunity to cultivate this virtue. Mass will be celebrated every day in Lent. Each day has its own unique theme, which lead us to seem the several aspects of Our Lord’s passionate grace. The daily schedule is as follows:
In addition, the Stations of the Cross with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will be celebrated every Friday at 7 p.m.
Increased private prayers and devotions at home should also be cultivated during this Season. These prayers and devotions should begin and be formed by reading from the Holy Scriptures. This year parishioners are especially encouraged to spend each day in Lent reading one or two chapters each day from the prophet Jeremiah.
Fasting & Abstention
In the Orthodox Church fasting is not an individual practice, but a communal habit. The purpose of this fast is to bring to our mind, each day, Our Lord’s Passion. Fasting also allows the entire body to participate in the penitence characteristic of this Holy Season.
As a community, on Mondays through Saturdays we abstain from all meat and meat products (except fish); and we fast by limiting the amount of food we eat by eating only one full meal, eating one smaller meal, and refraining from all snacks.
The Lenten Fast does not offer suggestions on what to “give up.” Rather, it prescribes the common rule the faithful are to follow as they fast together. Individuals may choose to “give up” additional items during Lent, but such choices should not replace the Lenten fast, and should be made in consolation with individ
ual’s spiritual father. Likewise, those who, for medical or other legitimate reasons, find it difficult to observe the Lenten Fast, should speak with their spiritual father concerning legitimate modifications in order to keep the spirit of the Fast.
Extra Alms and charitable donations should be made during Lent, even for those of us who tithe. These alms can come from the money saved by eating less during Lent. By giving to those in need, we remind ourselves that Our Lord’s love knows no economic boundaries.
To assist your Lenten almsgiving, look especially for the Lenten coin boxes which are available in the Narthex. Money received from these folders will help the Archdiocese “Food for Hungry People” program.
You may also wish to designate a particular local charity for additional funds. Such charities may include the local FOCUS North America chapter, the IOCC, the OCMC, the Crisis Pregnancy Center, or any number of homeless shelters.
Laudable Lenten Customs
Lent is especially the time when Christians put the remembrance of Our Lord’s Passion above all other pursuits. In our modern and permissive age it is unpopular to point out suc
h things, but this very fact indicates how much such pointing-out is needed.
For this reason, Lent is a closed season of the Church Year. This means that the solemnities of this season should not be disturbed by wedding celebrations and activities that would encourage one away from the three Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and charitable giving.
In addition, the Liturgy itself during Holy Lent expresses the seasons’ penitential character. The Gloria in excelsis, the Alleluia, bells, and extra organ music are omitted. Somber violet covers both Altar and Celebrant, lightened on only two occasions: Laetare Sunday, with rose as the proper color; and Holy Thursday, when white is used for the Mass of the Institution of Our Lord’s Supper.
Passion Sunday falls on April 2 this year. At this time, the Lenten observance is heightened in anticipation of the greater nearness of the celebration of Our Lord’s Death. Passion Sunday is when violet veils are placed over crucifixes, icons and statutes in church and home.
Lent concludes with the Holy Week observances. Mass will be celebrated each day of Holy Week at 7 p.m., climaxing with the triduum sacrum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Pascha.
On Maundy Thursday evening (April 13) in a most splendid and dignified Sung Mass, the Institution of the Most Blessed Sacrament will be celebrated at 7:00 p.m. This Mass concludes with the solemn Procession and the Stripping of the Altar. Every communicant should make every effort to receive Holy Communion on this sacred evening.
The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ will be celebrated with the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Good Friday (April 14) beginning at 7 p.m. This Solemn Liturgy includes the Sacrament of Holy Communion and a sermon based on the Passion Narrative according to St. John. Every member should make an effort to attend the Good Friday Solemn Liturgy.
The Queen of Feasts will be celebrated with great joy at St Michael’s Church. The feast will commence with the Great Vigil of Easter, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Holy Saturday (April 15). Then, on Easter Sunday (April 16), we shall hear again the Gospel of Our Lord’s Resurrection at the Easter Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. How greatly our joy would be increased if every communicant member of our Parish would come to the Altar on the Queen of Feasts!