Some Notes on Byzantine Pre-Lent

The current Byzantine Liturgy and the Roman usus antiquior have a point of unity in their respective observances of Pre-Lent.

In Constantinople, in either the sixth or seventh century, a week of Pre-Lent developed gradually, and was commonly called “The Week without Meat”. It is likely that this is in imitation of the Church in Palestine, which calculated Lent in forty days, Monday through Friday, over eight weeks. Byzantines did not need the extra days, since they counted the forty days continuously. So the compromise to the eight weeks of Palestine was to add a week of gradual fasting prior to the Great Fast. Now commonly known as “Cheese-Fare Week”, during this week Byzantines begin fasting from meat but continue to eat cheese and other dairy products right up until “Pure Monday”, the first day of the Fast (two days before the Roman “Ash Wednesday”).

There are four Sundays within Byzantine Pre-Lent. The “Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee” calls us to consider our life, and to repent of our sins for repentance is the door through which we enter the Holy Forty Days Fast. The “Sunday of the Prodigal Son” calls us to “come to ourselves” and return to the Father, who eagerly awaits our return. The “Sunday of the Last Judgment” reminds us that while the Lord’s mercy is immeasurable even He does not forgive those who do not repent. And, finally, on “Forgiveness Sunday” we remember Adam’s expulsion from Paradise and the proper method of fasting (don’t put on a gloomy face).

This time of Pre-Lent is also used to ease us into fasting. The week before the “Prodigal Son” is totally fast free (we eat meat, even on Friday). The following week we fast from meat on Wednesday and Friday (the “Sunday of the Last Judgment” is also known as “Meat-Fare”). During the week just prior to the Fast (“Cheese-Fare Week”) we start our abstinence from meat, but we continue to eat cheese and other dairy products. The full fast from both meat and dairy begins with the first day of Lent.

Terror seizes me when I think of the unquenchable fire,
Of the bitter worm,
the gnashing of teeth,
and soul-destroying hell;
yet I do not turn to You with true compunction.
O Lord! Lord! Before the end strengthen Your fear within me!

-- Matins, Seventh Ode, Sunday of the Last Judgment


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Teachings of Christ

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35 ESV)


March 18, 2018
Fifth Sunday of Great Lent
Saint Mary of Egypt
- Matins: John 20:11-18 (Gospel 8)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 9:11-14, Mark 10:32-45

Sixth Week of Great Lent
- Monday: Isaiah 48:17-49:4, Genesis 27:1-41, Proverbs 19:16-25
- Tuesday: Isaiah 49:6-10, Genesis 31:3-16, Proverbs 21:3-21
- Wednesday: Isaiah 58:1-11, Genesis 43:26-31; 45:1-16, Proverbs 21:23-22:4
- Thursday: Isaiah 65:8-16, Genesis 46:1-7, Proverbs 23:15-24:5
- Friday: Isaiah 66:10-24, Genesis 49:33-50:26, Proverbs 31:8-31

Great and Holy Week

March 24, 2018
Saturday of Saint Lazarus the Righteous
-Liturgy: Hebrews 12:28-13:8, John 11:1-45

March 25, 2018
Feast of the Annunciation to thhe Mother of God
Palm Sunday
The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem
- Vespers: Exodus 3:1-8, Proverbs 8:22-30 (Annunciation), Genesis 49:1,2,8-12, Zephaniah 3:14-19, Zechariah 9:9-15 (Palm Sunday)
- Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56 (Annunciation), Matthew 21:1-11,15-17 (Palm Sunday)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 2:11-18, Luke 1:24-38 (Annunciation), Philippians 4:4-9, John 12:1-18 (Palm Sunday)

Feasts & Fasts

2 - Encounter of Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ with Simeon and Anna
3 - First All-Souls Saturday
4 - Sunday of the Second Coming of Christ (Meat-Fare)
11 - Forgiveness Sunday (Cheese-Fare)
12 - Beginning of the Holy Forty Days Fast
18 - First Sunday of the Great Fast (Sunday of Orthodoxy)
19 - Washington's Birthday (President's Day) (USA)
24 - Second All-Souls Saturday
25 - Second Sunday of the Great Fast (St. Gregory Palamas)

Please pray!

"They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword...." (Hebrews 11:37a)

Please lift up in prayer all those who are persecuted and deprived of liberty, everywhere in the world. Please especially remember the peoples of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Niger - the whole Middle East and Africa - who are literal martyrs for Christ. Also the peoples of Ukraine. They are our brothers, for all are one in Christ.

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Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not lose sight of these — keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul." (Proverbs 3:21,22a ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God. But the Lord Himself guides with His grace those who are given over to God's will, and they bear all things with fortitude for the sake of God Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are glorified for ever. It is impossible to escape tribulation in this world but the man who is giver over to the will of God bears tribulation easily, seeing it but putting his trust in the Lord, and so his tribulations pass.

Archimandrite Sophrony