Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
Christ is in our midst! He was and is and ever shall be.
Ο Χριστός έν τώ μέσω ημών. Και ήν και έστι και έσται.
THE PERIOD OF THE TRIODION
What is the Triodion?
This is the Orthodox liturgical book that contains the variable portions of the Divine Liturgy and other holy services for a particular period of Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical calendar. It begins on the 4th Sunday before the Holy and Great Lent (Fast), the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, and ends on the Saturday of the Holy and Great Week. Triodion is also called the period between the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee and Holy Pascha. The name derives from the fact that during the season the Canons contain only THREE ODES instead of the usual NINE. The canon is a series of nine hymns, odes used at the Orthros (Matins). The NINE ODES vary so as to correspond with the theme of the particular feast. The introduction of canons is ascribed to Saint Andrew of Crete. Other famous authors of canons are Romanos the Melodos, Saint John Damascene, and Saint Theodore the Studetes.
The Pre-Lenten Period:
The Sunday of Zacchaeus--One week before the Triodion enters into use, there is a Sunday Gospel reading which looks forward directly to the coming Fast - Saint Luke 19: 1-10, describing how Zacchaeus climbed a tree beside the road where Christ was to pass. In this reading we note Zacchaeus' sense of eager expectation, the intensity of his desire to see our Lord, and we apply this to ourselves. If, as we prepare for Holy and Great Lent, there is real eagerness in our hearts, if we have an INTENSE DESIRE FOR A CLEAR VISION OF CHRIST, THEN OUR HOPES WILL BE FULFILLED DURING THE HOLY FAST; INDEED, WE SHALL, LIKE Zacchaeus, RECEIVE FAR MORE THAN WE EXPECT. BUT IF THERE IS WITHIN US NO EAGER EXPECTATION AND NO SINCERE DESIRE, WE SHALL SEE AND RECEIVE NOTHING. AND SO WE ASK OURSELVES: WHAT IS MY STATE OF MIND AND WILL AS I PREPARE TO EMBARK ON THE LENTEN JOURNEY.
Weeks of Preparation
The Three Weeks that commence on the Fourth Sunday prior to Holy and Great Lent constitute the WEEKS OF PREPARATION. Each has its own distinct theme which is expressed in the GOSPEL readings appointed for the Divine Liturgies on these days:
- Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee (St. Luke 18:9-14)
- Sunday of the Prodigal Son (St. Luke 15:11-32)
- Sunday of the Last Judgment (also called Meatfare Sunday; St. Matthew 25:31-46)
- Sunday of Forgiveness (also called Cheesefare Sunday; the expulsion of Adam from Eden is also a theme of this day); [St. Matthew 6:14-21].
Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church eases us into the Holy Lenten fasting discipline during this period. The week following the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee is FAST-FREE (THERE IS NO FASTING THIS COMING WEEK EVEN ON WEDNESDAYS AND FRIDAYS). In the week following Meatfare Sunday, NO MEAT IS EATEN; EGGS, FISH, AND DAIRY PRODUCTS ARE PERMITTED ON ANY DAY.
FORGIVENESS SUNDAY brings the period of preparation to an end. The next day, CLEAN MONDAY (KATHARA DEFTERA) BEGINS GREAT AND HOLY LENT. The Vespers service served on the evening of Forgiveness Sunday includes the Rite of MUTUAL FORGIVENESS AND IS THE FIRST SERVICE OF GREAT AND HOLY LENT.
GREAT AND HOLY LENT (FAST)
Great and Holy Lent begins on the Monday following FORGIVENESS SUNDAY (ALSO CALLED CHEESE- FARE SUNDAY) WITH EACH SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTED AS FOLLOWS:
- SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY (ST. JOHN 1: 43-51),
- SUNDAY OF SAINT GREGORY PALAMAS
- SUNDAY OF THE HOLY CROSS ( is sometimes called the week of the Cross, because during it we venerate the Holy Cross)
- SUNDAY OF SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS,
FIFTH THURSDAY AT VESPERS (that is, Wednesday evening) the 24 hymns of Saint
Andrew of Crete are chanted.
FIFTH THURSDAY AT ORTHROS (MATINS): GREAT CANON.
- SUNDAY OF SAINT MARY OF EGYPT
HOLY AND GREAT WEEK
HOLY LENT is followed by HOLY AND GREAT WEEK, THE WEEK BEGINNING WITH PALM SUNDAY AND PRECEDING ALL-HOLY PASCHA.
Please note: During Holy and Great Fast (Lent) the Presanctified Liturgy (also called Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts) is normally served on Wednesday and Friday of each Week and also on the Fifth Thursday. The Divine Liturgy is NOT SERVED ON THE WEEKDAYS OF GREAT AND HOLY LENT, EXCEPT ON THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION (EVAGGELISMOU).
Within the book of the Great and Holy Fast (Lent) the Lenten Triodion, two constituent elements may be distinguished: first, the cycle of the Psalter and the other Scriptural readings; and secondly, the cycle of liturgical hymnography - of canons, stichera, sessional hymns and the like.
The Psalter and the Scriptural Readings--These are of inestimable importance, for Holy Lent is an ANNUAL RETURN TO OUR BIBLICAL ROOTS. IT IS, MORE SPECIFICALLY, A RETURN TO OUR ROOTS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT; FOR DURING HOLY LENT, TO A FAR GREATER DEGREE THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL YEAR, THE SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE TAKEN FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT RATHER THAN THE NEW.
This emphasis upon the Old Testament is evident, first of all, in the more prominent place assigned to the Psalter during Holy Lent. Instead of being read through once, as in other weeks of the year, during Holy Lent it is read in its entirety twice each week. Our Lenten aspirations are CONCENTRATED IN THE WORDS OF THE PSALMS THAT OUR LORD HIMSELF LEARNT BY HEART AS A CHILD AND USED IN HIS OWN MORNING AND EVENING PRAYERS.
The scheme of Old Testament readings in the Triodion was perhaps worked out between the 5th and the 7th century. The Three Daily Lessons are taken from the Three main categories of Old Testament literature -- from the historical books, the Prophets, and the Wisdom literature -- according to the following pattern:
- Historical books (i.e. the Pentateuch) at the first lesson in Vespers:
Genesis (in the six weeks of Holy Lent)
Exodus (in Holy and Great Week)
- The Prophets at the Sixth Hour:
Isaiah (in the six weeks of Holy Lent)
Ezekiel (in Holy and Great Week)
- Wisdom Literature at the second lesson in Vespers:
Proverbs (in the six weeks of Holy Lent)
Job (in Holy and Great Week)
As well as representing the various categories of Old Testament literature, these books have also been chosen because of their appropriateness to Holy and Great Lent:
(1) GENESIS describes the fall of man and his expulsion from Paradise, which is a dominant motif throughout the Triodion. The later chapters of Genesis tell the story of Joseph, who in his innocent sufferings serves as a 'type' of Christ.
(2) EXODUS In the lessons from the books of Exodus, Moses foreshadows Christ, the Old Passover anticipates the New, and the crossing of the Red Sea PREFIGURES THE REDEMPTIVE DEATH AND THE RISING OF THE SAVIOR.
(3) ISAIAH. The book of Isaiah begins with an appeal FOR REPENTANCE AND FASTING.
(4) EZEKIEL. The readings from the book of Ezekiel speak of God's GLORY - THE GLORY THAT IS ALSO MANIFESTED THOUGH THE CROSS AND RESURRECTION: "NOW IS THE SON OF MAN GLORIFIED, AND GOD IS GLORIFIED IN HIM" ( St. John 13:31).
(5) PROVERBS. The ethical instruction in Proverbs REMINDS US THAT HOLY AND GREAT LENT IS A TIME FOR MORAL EFFORT: TO REPENT IS NOT MERELY TO EXPERIENCE CERTAIN EMOTIONS BUT, ON THE LEVEL OF PRACTICAL CONDUCT, TO ALTER OUR WAY OF LIFE WITH THE HELP OF GOD'S GRACE. IF WE FIND THE READINGS FROM Proverbs dull and look for something more 'dramatic' and 'exciting,' this SHOWS THAT WE WANT TO RUN BEFORE WE HAVE LEARNT TO WALK.
(6) JOB. The PATIENT SUFFERINGS OF JOB AND HIS FINAL VINDICATION POINT FORWARD TO THE PASSION AND RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
Please note: As practicing Orthodox Christians we come to appreciate the effort of Our Holy Orthodox Church to aid each and every one of us in our spiritual struggle and by the Grace of God to succeed in this effort and to discover that God is always with us and desires that we all be saved and come to the knowledge of THE TRUTH.
A BLESSED AND GOOD TRIODION TO ALL OF YOU.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God