By John Sanidopoulos
In the Orthodox Church today, the primary theme for the Second Sunday of Great Lent is the person of Saint Gregory Palamas and his struggles for the Orthodox faith. The reason he is remembered on this Second Sunday is to put a seal on the previous Sunday of Orthodoxy (when Gregory Palamas is hailed and his opponents condemned in the Synodikon), and therefore it is a second Sunday of Orthodoxy. However, Gregory Palamas, who reposed in 1359, did not become the focus of the Second Sunday of Great Lent until 1368, when he was officially canonized by Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos, which is believed to have taken place during Great Lent in 1368 (possibly the Second Sunday of Great Lent, hence the commemoration). However, a Service to Saint Gregory Palamas did not appear for this day in the Triodion until 1519. This leaves us to wonder what the theme of the Second Sunday of Great Lent was previous to this time.
Originally, the Parable of the Prodigal Son was the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Great Lent, and with the Prodigal Son was remembered the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, though this Gospel reading was not done until the following Sunday. This was because the period of Great Lent was mainly focused on being a period of catechism for catechumens, who were to be baptized on Lazarus Saturday or Holy Saturday, and the spirit of repentance was emphasized. It is still the case in the Roman Catholic Church for the Parable of the Prodigal Son to be read on this Sunday. In the sixth century, however, the Publican and the Pharisee became identified with the First Sunday of the Triodion and the Prodigal Son was moved to the Second Sunday of the Triodion - which is the three-week period immediately preceding Great Lent - and the reading for the Second Sunday of Great Lent was replaced with the Healing of the Paralyzed Man in Capernaum from the Gospel of Mark. This Gospel reading was the primary focus for the Second Sunday of Great Lent until 1368, though it still remains the Gospel reading for this day.
Interestingly, some of the hymns from the Sunday of the Prodigal Son have remained in their original liturgical position on the Second Sunday of Great Lent, for example, the Second Canon for Sunday Matins, and also a number of the idiomela sung during the services of the week following the Second Sunday of Great Lent.