During these days we sing a hymn that begins with the phrase, "It is the time of repentance and the hour of prayer...", which somehow defines the entire period of the Triodion. It is a time of repentance and prayer.
And indeed, from the morning of the first Sunday of the Triodion, during Matins, we hear being chanted in our churches the following moving hymn, "Open unto me the gates of repentance, Life-Giver..." and our hearts are pricked. The hymn exhorts us to resort through repentance to the Grace of the very merciful and life-giving God.
This entire sacred hymn touches us, as we hear it being chanted melodiously. This is because all of us, without exception, need repentance. Only God is without sin. As we hear the Liturgist address God in the Funeral Service: "There is no man who shall live and sin not, for You alone are without sin." Who can boast that they have a pure and clean heart without sin? asked the inspired Wise Man of the Old Testament. Who has the boldness to admit that they are "clean of sin"? (Prov. 20:9).
All of us, as long as we are in our right minds, feel ourselves to be sinners and transgressors of God's will. And we feel the need to confess, acknowledge our mistakes, and tell our secrets. And not only during the sacred time of the Mystery of Confession before the representative of God, where periodically we tell our secret transgressions, but every day in our prayers. We should pray as if we are devastated over our mistakes and our daily sins and we should ask for God's mercy, like the Publican, who our Church puts forward at the beginning of the Triodion as a standard and model of how we should feel towards our sinfulness and of repentance.
He is not the only example of repentance our Church will bring forward during the Triodion. We will also be shown the path of return through the Prodigal Son, in order to move us towards repentance. We will be shown the repentance of the venerable Mary of Egypt, who through repentance became an earthly angel. Later we will also be shown the repentance of the Sinful Woman and the Thief, who are shocking examples of repentance.
All of these things are meant to help us take the path towards repentance which leads to heaven. Repentance is not a matter of the past, as if we can go there once after having confessed, but it is a continuous present, a way of life, a continued aversion towards sin.
Along with repentance is prayer. As we said about the Triodion: "It is...the hour of prayer." The sacred services of the Church are more frequent. We have the Salutations, Great Compline, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Divine Gifts, Solemn Vespers; services that are not done at any other time of the ecclesiastical year, and they help us to connect more often with the "Lord of the Powers"; to communicate with Him, Who is the Light and Life of the world (Jn. 8:12, 14:6), in order to quicken our souls.
Truly how sweetened our hearts become with the divine services of the Triodion! How strengthened our existence becomes in these times of our common prayer, when the faithful gather in their churches to worship our Lord and God, and to feel His divine presence among us! And influenced by the spiritual atmosphere of this common prayer, we bring it home with us, in the quiet of our prayer rooms, and we open our hearts to the Lord about our personal and family matters.
And people, who although are ignorant of God's will and perhaps did not have the opportunities we had to know what prayer and association with the Lord are, run during these days to dances and sprees. But those who by the Grace of God truly believe in Him, we enjoy substantially these days of the Triodion - with prayer, the religious assemblies of the Church, by overcoming our weaknesses and defects through repentance, with the good fight by which we are made pleasing to our Lord and God in every aspect of our lives, and with our thoughts in the heavens, on the saints and on our Panagia, who expect us to get together with them in Paradise and glorify eternally and thrice-happily our Thrice-Holy God.
Source: From the magazine Ο Σωτήρ. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.