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Lenten Services

The week­day ser­vices of Great Lent are char­ac­ter­ized by spe­cial lenten melodies of a pen­i­ten­tial char­ac­ter. The roy­al gates to the altar area remain closed to sig­ni­fy man’s sep­a­ra­tion through sin from the King­dom of God. The church vest­ing is of a somber col­or, usu­al­ly pur­ple. The dai­ly troparia are also of an inter­ces­so­ry char­ac­ter, entreat­ing God through his saints to have mer­cy on us sin­ners.

At the Matins the long Alleluia replaces the psalm: God is the Lord… The Psalmody is increased. The hym­nol­o­gy refers to the lenten effort. Scrip­ture read­ings from Gen­e­sis and Proverbs are added to Ves­pers, and the Prophe­cy of Isa­iah to the Sixth Hour. Each of these books is read near­ly in its entire­ty dur­ing the lenten peri­od. Epis­tle and gospel read­ings are absent because there are no Divine Litur­gies.

At all of the lenten ser­vices the Prayer of St Ephraim of Syr­ia is read. It sup­pli­cates God for those virtues espe­cial­ly nec­es­sary to the Chris­t­ian life.

O Lord and Mas­ter of my life: take from me the spir­it of sloth, faint-heart­ed­ness, lust of pow­er and idle talk.

But grant rather the spir­it of chasti­ty, humil­i­ty, patience and love to Thy ser­vant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my broth­er, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

The Ves­per ser­vice which begins the lenten sea­son is called the Ves­pers of For­give­ness. It is cus­tom­ary at this ser­vice for the faith­ful to ask for­give­ness and to for­give each oth­er. At the Com­pline ser­vices of the first week of lent the Canon of St Andrew of Crete is read. This is a long series of pen­i­ten­tial vers­es based on Bib­li­cal themes, to each of which the peo­ple respond: Have mer­cy on me, O God, have mer­cy on me. This canon is repeat­ed at Matins on Thurs­day of the fifth week.

On Fri­day evening of this same fifth week, the Akathis­tos Hymn to the Moth­er of God is sung; and the Sat­ur­day Divine Litur­gy also hon­ors the Theotokos.

The first Sat­ur­day of Great Lent is ded­i­cat­ed to the mem­o­ry of St Theodore of Tyre. The sec­ond, third, and fourth Sat­ur­days are called Memo­r­i­al Sat­ur­days since they are ded­i­cat­ed to the remem­brance of the dead.

On Memo­r­i­al Sat­ur­days the litur­gi­cal hymns pray uni­ver­sal­ly for all of the depart­ed, and the Matins for the dead, pop­u­lar­ly called the paras­ta­sis or panikhi­da, is served with spe­cif­ic men­tion of the deceased by name. Lita­nies and prayers are also added to the Divine Litur­gy at which the scrip­ture read­ings refer to the dead and their sal­va­tion by Christ.

Sat­ur­day, even dur­ing the non-lenten sea­son, is the Church’s day for remem­ber­ing the dead. This is so because Sat­ur­day, the Sab­bath Day, stands as the day which God blessed for life in this world. Because of sin, how­ev­er, this day now sym­bol­izes all of earth­ly life as nat­u­ral­ly ful­filled in death. Even Christ the Lord lay dead on the Sab­bath Day, “rest­ing from all of his works” and “tram­pling down death by death.” Thus, in the New Tes­ta­ment Church of Christ, Sat­ur­day becomes the prop­er day for remem­ber­ing the dead and for offer­ing prayers for their eter­nal sal­va­tion.