Saturday, March 22, 2008

About the Liturgical Life of Lent

In the Byzantine-Orthodox tradition, the season of Great Lent takes on an entirely unique characteristic. I thought it would be a good idea to explore some of the changes, terms and themes we find. I’ll try to touch on a few points each week.

Some important things to note are (1) the reading from scripture is done in order (lectio continua) with the following texts (a) On Saturdays & Sundays at the liturgy, the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Hebrews are read; (b) At daily Vespers (including days with the Presanctified Liturgy), readings are from the Hebrew Scripture (OT), books of Genesis & Proverbs; daily at the Sixth Hour, there is a reading from Isaiah. A special “prokeimenon” or psalm verse always introduces the readings. During Passion Week, the readings at vespers are from Exodus and Job.

(2) Each day has its own liturgical texts (tropars, stichera, prokeimena, verses, etc) which are taken from a book called the “Lenten Triodion” which literally means “Book of the Three Odes,” (referring to how the canon of Matins is sung daily). So, when you see “from the triodion” next to a certain text, it means that it is taken from this special Lenten book.

(3) Celebration of the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist) is forbidden on the weekdays of Lent. However, to strengthen the faithful in fasting, good deeds and prayer, holy communion is distributed on Wednesday & Friday evenings at a special version of Vespers in which the sacrament has been consecrated on the previous Sunday and reserved in the tabernacle (Presanctified Liturgy).

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