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Great Lent

The sea­son of Great Lent is the time of prepa­ra­tion for the feast of the Res­ur­rec­tion of Christ, It is the liv­ing sym­bol of man’s entire life which is to be ful­filled in his own res­ur­rec­tion from the dead with Christ. It is a time of renewed devo­tion: of prayer, fast­ing, and alms­giv­ing. It is a time of repen­tance, a real renew­al of our minds, hearts and deeds in con­for­mi­ty with Christ and his teach­ings. It is the time, most of all, of our return to the great com­mand­ments of lov­ing God and our neighbors.

In the Ortho­dox Church, Great Lent is not a sea­son of mor­bid­i­ty and gloomi­ness. On the con­trary, it is a time of joy­ful­ness and purifi­ca­tion. We are called to “anoint our faces” and to “cleanse our bod­ies as we cleanse our souls.” The very first hymns of the very first ser­vice of Great Lent set the prop­er tone of the season:

Let us begin the lenten time with delight … let us fast from pas­sions as we fast from food, tak­ing plea­sure in the good words of the Spir­it, that we may be grant­ed to see the holy pas­sion of Christ our God and his holy Pascha, spir­i­tu­al­ly rejoicing.

Thy grace has arisen upon us, O Lord, the illu­mi­na­tion of our souls has shown forth; behold, now is the accept­able time; behold, now is the time of repen­tance (Ves­per Hymns).

It is our repen­tance that God desires, not our remorse. We sor­row for our sins, but we do so in the joy of God’s mer­cy. We mor­ti­fy our flesh, but we do so in the joy of our res­ur­rec­tion into life ever­last­ing. We make ready for the res­ur­rec­tion dur­ing Great Lent, both Christ’s Res­ur­rec­tion and our own.