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February 21, 2021

What is the Triodion? (Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos)

By Archimandrite Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

Our ecclesiastical calendar not only includes immovable feasts, such as, for example, that of Basil the Great (January 1st) or the Dormition of the Theotokos (August 15th) or Christmas (December 25th), and so forth, but it also includes movable feasts which are not celebrated on certain and stable dates, but on different dates each year. This is because the whole cycle of these feasts depend on Holy Easter. But Easter is a movable feast. Our Church has decreed, through the First Ecumenical Synod, that it is to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon of the spring equinox. An "equinox" is the time point at which daytime is equal to nighttime. We have two equinoxes: in the Spring we have the spring equinox and in the Autumn we have the autumn equinox. The first is on the 21st of March and the second is on the 23rd of September. Because the full moon of the spring equinox is not fixed, which means that it does not always fall on the same date, for this reason Easter is celebrated on different dates each year. Since Easter is a movable feast, it is natural that all the feasts that depend on it are also movable. These feasts consist of two cycles: the cycle of the Triodion and the cycle of the Pentecostarion. Regarding the Pentecostarion, we will speak, God willing, another time; today we will speak about the Triodion.

The ecclesiastical book that contains the Services of our Church which are performed during the period beginning with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee and ends on Great and Holy Saturday, that is the Services of the movable feasts that precede Easter, is called the Triodion. The Pentecostarion includes the feasts that follow Easter. The Triodion covers: (a) the three weeks preceding Great Lent, (b) all of Great Lent, specifically the period from Clean Monday to Palm Sunday, and (c) Holy Week. It is called Triodion, because many of its hymns, the so-called Canons (especially the Canons of weekday Matins), are not complete, in other words they do not contain eight or nine Odes, but they contain three Odes. Of course, there are also Canons that are complete, but because many, and indeed most (especially those of weekday Matins, as we said), have three Odes, the whole book has been called the Triodion. Because it is full of hymns that are solemn, it is also called the Solemn Triodion.

Triodion is not only the name of the relevant book however, but it is also the period of time which this book covers. The Triodion therefore is a liturgical book and a part of the ecclesiastical year.

The whole period of the Triodion is intended to prepare us, through fasting, prayer and repentance, to accept our Savior as He "makes ready for His Passion" and to become communicants of His Passion and Resurrection.

Unfortunately however, this is only theoretical. In action many of our Christians use the period of the Triodion in a way that only makes the devil rejoice. Dances, disguises (commonly known as "masks"), immoral songs, carnivals, drunkenness, sinful fun and a variety of other wretched things, these are the things thousands of people associate with the Triodion! And these people are not idol-worshipers, but Orthodox Christians, baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity! Be careful, my brethren! These things are unworthy of Christians. Idol-worshipers celebrated like this. Not with dances and carnivals, not with drunkenness and "masks", but with fasting and prayer, with "joyful sorrow", with solemnity and spiritual gladness, we will celebrate the feasts of the Triodion. Let us listen to the voice of our Mother, our Holy Church, that we may carry out Her recommendations:

"The arena of the virtues has been opened. Let all who wish to struggle for the prize now enter, girding themselves for the noble contest of the Fast; for those that strive lawfully are justly crowned. Taking up the armor of the Cross, let us make war against the enemy. Let us have faith as our invincible wall, prayer as our breastplate, and as our helmet almsgiving; and as our sword let us use fasting that cuts away all evil from our heart. If we do this, we shall receive the true crown from Christ the King of all at the Day of Judgment."

Source: From Περίοδος Τριωδίου. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.