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Great Lent: A School of Repentance Its Meaning for Orthodox Christians   By:

Great Lent: A School of Repentance Its Meaning for Orthodox Christians by Alexander Schmemann

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[Illustration: GREAT LENT A SCHOOL OF REPENTANCE (front cover)]

GREAT LENT

A SCHOOL OF REPENTANCE

Its Meaning for Orthodox Christians

by

The Rt. Rev. Alexander Schmemann

DEPARTMENT OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA

New York 1970 Second Printing 1977

CONTENTS

GREAT LENT 5 The Time of Repentance

SUNDAYS OF PREPARATION 7

LENTEN WORSHIP 13

HOW CAN WE KEEP GREAT LENT? 23

GREAT LENT

THE TIME OF REPENTANCE

"Brethren, while fasting bodily, let us also fast spiritually; let us loosen every bond of injustice; let us destroy the strong fetters of violence; let us tear up every unjust writing; let us give bread to the hungry and let us welcome the homeless poor to our houses, that from Christ our God we may receive the great mercy."

(=Stichira, Wednesday of the First Week=)

We are approaching again the Great Lent the time of repentance, the time of our reconciliation with God. Repentance is the beginning and also the condition of a truly Christian life. "Repent!" was the first word of Christ when He began to preach (Matt. 4:17). But =what is repentance=? In the daily rush of our life we have no time to think about it, we simply take it for granted that we must go to confession, receive absolution, and then forget all about it until next year. Yet there must be a reason why our Church has set apart seven weeks as a special time of repentance and calls each Orthodox Christian to a special spiritual effort. And this reason must obviously concern =me=, =my= life, =my= faith, =my= membership in the Church. I must try to understand it, to follow as much as I can the teachings of my Church, be Orthodox not only by name, but in life itself. What then is repentance? Great Lent gives the answer to this question. It is indeed a =school of repentance=, to which each Christian must go every year in order to refresh the understanding of his faith. It is a wonderful pilgrimage to the very sources of Orthodoxy, a rediscovery of a truly Orthodox way of life. Let us try to make these forty days as meaningful, as deep, and as rich, as possible.

In this brief explanation of Lent we shall deal with:

the preparation for Great Lent,

the Lenten worship of the Orthodox Church,

the Orthodox teaching on fasting, prayer and other spiritual efforts prescribed during Lent.

SUNDAYS OF PREPARATION

Three weeks before Lent proper begins we enter into a period of =pre Lenten= preparation. It is a constant feature of the Orthodox tradition of worship that every major liturgical event (Christmas, Easter, Lent) is announced and prepared in advance. Knowing our lack of concentration, the "worldliness" of our life, the Church calls our attention to the seriousness of the approaching event, invites us to meditate on its significance. Thus, before we can =practice= Lent, we are given its meaning.

This preparation includes four consecutive Sundays preceding Lent, each one of them dedicated to some fundamental aspect of repentance.

1. Humility

(Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee)

On the eve of this day (i.e. on Saturday at Vespers) the liturgical book of the Lenten season the =Triodion= makes its first appearance and texts from it are added to the usual liturgical material of the weekly Resurrection service. They develop the first major theme of repentance: =humility=.

The Gospel lesson (Luke 18:10 14) teaches us that humility is the condition of repentance. The parable of the Publican and Pharisee pictures a man who is always pleased with himself and who thinks that he complies with all the requirements of religion. He is proud of himself and self assured. In reality, however, he has falsified the meaning of religion. He has reduced it to external observations and he measures his piety by the amount of money he gives to the temple... Continue reading book >>




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