March 8, 2011

The Liturgical Richness of Great Lent

By John M. Fountoulis

If one wants to live the liturgical richness, the wondrous mystical greatness of Great Lent, he must try to avoid its surface. The surface is that which we all see and recognize on the Sundays of Great Lent. There is truly a distinction between these Sundays and other Sundays during the rest of the year. The special festal themes, the hymnography, the Liturgy of Basil the Great which is performed instead of the Liturgy of Chrysostom, give them a distinct color. However the Sundays of Great Lent are an oasis within itself. Essentially they are found outside of it. The real charm of Great Lent is felt within the "sea" or "barren desert", as the Fathers call Great Lent, or rather in its every day cycle, from Monday till Friday of the six weeks which it forms.

Our Church always saw the ideal form of worship in the monastic services, which is why over time the specifically old parish services were replaced with the monastic. However, especially during Great Lent it tried to move the worship of the monasteries to the churches in the world. After all, the faithful could not venture out into the desert, therefore the services of the desert moved to the cities. The Church wanted on these devout days to make its lay members taste the mystical beauty of the monastic services; to make the faithful laity into small monastics. And this was not without purpose. In the monastic system of services during the period of the Fast there is found the culmination of the entire year. Few people are able to follow them. They neither have the time available, nor the necessary disposition of soul. By contrast in the monasteries, where the worship of God is the center of monastic life and the primary interest of these dedicated people, the ecclesiastical services of the period of Great Lent become the nourishment and the only occupation of the fathers.

From Reasonable Worship. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.