Great Lent begins on Monday, March 7, 2022. Also called Quadragesima or Tessaracoste, Great Lent is a 40-day season of spiritual preparation that comes before the Feast of Holy Pascha or the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which falls on April 24.
Two of the three hesychast saints commemorated by the Romanian Patriarchate in 2022 will be honoured during Great Lent: St Symeon the New Theologian on March 12 and St Gregory Palamas on March 20 (2nd Sunday of Lent).
The Lenten liturgical program was synthesized throughout time. As part of the Triodion, Lent is dedicated to spiritual uplift and liberation of passions.
In the first four days of Lent, the Church officiates the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, a liturgical hymn of repentance, remembering the history of salvation. At the same time, to reiterate the need for a conscience free of passions, the Church decided that the Great Canon should be read in its entirety in the fifth week of Great Lent.
Another specificity is the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, celebrated only during Lent.
Great Lent is the longest and strictest of the four fasting periods of the Orthodox Church.
General rules of the Lenten fast
The Lenten Fast rules that we observe today were established within the monasteries of the Orthodox Church during the sixth through eleventh centuries. Therefore, these rules are intended for all Orthodox Christians, not just monks and nuns.
The first week of Lent is especially strict. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a total fast is kept. In practice, very few people are able to do this. Some find it necessary to eat a little each day after sunset. Many Faithful do fast completely on Monday and then eat only uncooked food (bread, fruit, nuts) on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the fast is kept until after the Presanctified Liturgy.
From the second through the sixth weeks of Lent, the general rules for fasting are practised. Meat, animal products (cheese, milk, butter, eggs, lard), fish (meaning fish with backbones), olive oil and wine (all alcoholic drinks) are not consumed during the weekdays of Great Lent. Octopus and shellfish are allowed, as is vegetable oil. On weekends, olive oil and wine are permitted.
According to what was done in the monasteries, one meal a day is eaten on weekdays and two meals on weekends of Great Lent. No restriction is placed on the amount of food during the meal, though moderation is always encouraged in all areas of one’s life at all times.
Fish, oil and wine are allowed on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and Palm Sunday (one week before Easter). On other feast days, such as the First and Second Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist (February 24), the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9), the Forefeast of the Annunciation (March 24) and the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (March 26), wine and oil are permitted.
Photography courtesy of Basilica.ro Files / Mircea Florescu
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