The Forty Days of the Great Fast

St Nicholas the Catholicos of Georgia

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


O Lord, Almighty, the God of our Fathers, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and of their righteous seed; who created the heaven and the earth with all their adornment; who bound the sea by the word of Your Command; Who shut up the abyss and sealed it with Your awesome and glorious name; Whom all things dread and before whose power they tremble, because the Majesty of Your glory is unbearable and the threat of Your anger against the sinners unendurable; yet the mercy of Your promise is both, immeasurable and unfathomable, for You are the Lord Most High, compassionate, long-suffering and All-Merciful, and relent on the wickedness of man.

You, Lord, in the multitude of Your goodness promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against You, and in Your Infinite compassion appointed repentance for the sinners that they may be saved. Therefore, Lord, the God of the righteous, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who have not sinned against You, but You appointed repentance for me the sinner, for I have committed more sins than the grains of the sand of the sea. My transgressions have multiplied, Lord; my transgressions have multiplied, and I am not worthy to look up and see the height of the sky form the multitude of my iniquities, being weighted down by many iron chains, so that I cannot raise my head; there is no respite left for me because I provoked Your anger and committed evil before You not having done Your will and not having kept Your Commandments. And now I bend the knee of my heart, beseeching Your goodness. I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned and I acknowledge my transgressions; but I beg and ask of You: Forgive me, Lord, forgive me and do not destroy me with my transgressions; do not be angry with me forever and keep my evils in me, and to not condemn me to the depths of the earth; for You are God, the God of those who repent, and in me You shall show all Your goodness; for even though I am unworthy, You shall save me according to the multitude of Your mercy, and I shall praise You without ceasing all the days of my life. For every heavenly power sings Your praises, and Your is the Glory unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Source: Great Compline [Apodeipnon To Mega] Service)


(Source: The Lenten Triodion translated from the original Greek by Mother Mary and His Eminence Kallistos Ware)

The two preceding Sundays of the Last Judgment and of Forgiveness, together constitute--albeit in reverse order--a recapitulation of the whole range of Sacred History, from its beginning-point, Adam in Paradise, to its end-point, the Second Coming of Christ, when all time and history are taken up into eternity. During the Forty Days that now follow, although this wider perspective is never forgotten, there is an increasing concentration upon the central moment in Sacred History, upon the saving event of Christ's Passion and Resurrection, which makes possible man's return to Paradise and inaugurates the End. Lent is, from this point of view, a journey with a precise direction; it is, the journey to Pascha. The goal of our journey is concisely expressed in the closing prayer at the Liturgy of the Presanctified: '...may we come uncondemned to worship at the Holy Resurrection.' Throughout the Forty Days we are reminded that we are on the move, travelling on a path that leads straight to Golgotha and the Empty Tomb. So we say at the start of the first week:

"Let us set out with joy... Having sailed across the great sea of the Fast, May we reach the third-day Resurrection of our Lord. Let us hasten to the Holy Resurrection on the third day... While our journey proceeds, as travelers we regularly call to mind how far we have progressed:

As we begin the second day...Let us now set out with joy upon the second week of the Fast...

As we start upon the third week of the Fast, O ye faithful, Let us glorify the Holy Trinity,

And joyfully pass through the time that still remains...Weaving garlands for the queen of days-the day, that is, of the Lord's Resurrection.

So we continue:

Now that we have passed beyond the middle point in the time of the Fast, Let us hasten eagerly towards our journey's end...So may we be counted worthy to venerate the divine Passion of

Christ our God, And to attain His dread and Holy Resurrection.

During each week of Holy Lent, our faces are set towards the objective of our journeying: the Savior's suffering and triumphant Passover.

The Forty Days' journey of Lent recalls in particular the forty years in which the Chosen People journeyed through the wilderness. For us, as for the children of Israel, Lent is a time of pilgrimage. It is a time for our liberation from the bondage of Egypt, from domination by sinful passions; a time for progress by faith through a barren and waterless desert; a time for unexpected reassurance, when in our hunger we are fed with manna from heaven; a time when God speaks to us out of the darkness of Sinai; a time in which we draw near to the Promised Land, to our true home in Paradise whose door the Crucified and Risen Christ has reopened for us.

The Weekdays of Lent: A characteristic ethos is given to the weekdays of Lent by the frequently repeated prostrations, used especially in conjunction with the Prayer of Saint Ephraim: 'O Lord and Master of my life…' Brief, sober, yet remarkably complete, this prayer takes us to the very heart of what Lenten means.

Another distinctive feature of Lenten weekdays is the Liturgy of the Presanctified, celebrated according to present practice on each Wednesday and Friday, but at one time on every weekday of Lent. Strictly speaking, the term, 'liturgy' is a misnomer, for there is no Eucharistic consecration a this service; it is simply the Office of Vespers (Esperinos), followed by the distribution of Holy Communion from elements consecrated on the previous Sunday. The full celebration to be inconsistent with the austerity of the weekday Lenten Fast; and so already in the 4th century it was laid down that there should be no complete celebration of the Liturgy during Lent except on Saturday and Sunday. But so as to enable the faithful to receive communion on weekdays in Lent-for in the ancient Church it was normal to communicate frequently (to receive Holy Communion often) and in some places even daily-the order of the Presanctified Liturgy was devised.

Many moments of the Presanctified Liturgy recall the period when Lent was a time of final training before the reception of Baptism, the Sacrament of Light or 'Illumination.' Thus between the two Old Testament lessons, the priest, holding the censer and a lighted candle, blesses the congregation, saying: 'The Light of Christ shines upon all'; and, following the Litany for the Catechumens and their dismissal, there is during the second half of Lent an additional Litany 'for those who are ready for illumination.' Each time we take part in the Liturgy of the Presanctified, we should ask ourselves: in a world that is increasingly alienate from Christ, what have I done since last Lent to spread the Light of the Gospel? And where are the catechumens in our Orthodox churches today?

(To be continued)



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George