The Lenten Triodion

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


Vespers on Saturday Evening

"Brethren, let us not pray as the Pharisee: for he who exalts himself shall be humbled. Let us humble ourselves before God, and with fasting cry aloud as the Publican: God be merciful to us sinners.


A Pharisee, overcome with vainglory, and a Publican, bowed down in repentance, came to Thee the only Master. The one boasted and was deprived of blessings, while the other kept silent and was counted worthy of gifts. Confirm me, O Christ our God, in these his cries of sorrow, for Thou lovest mankind.


Understanding, O my soul, the difference between the Publican and the Pharisee, hate the proud words of the one, and eagerly imitate the contrite prayer of the other, crying aloud: God be merciful to me a sinner and have pity on me.


Open unto me, O Giver of Life, the gates of repentance: for early in the morning my spirit seeks Thy holy temple, bearing a temple of the body all defiled. But in Thy compassion cleanse it by Thy Loving-Kindness and Thy mercy.


Guide Me in the paths of salvation, O Theotokos: for I have befouled my soul with shameful sins and have wasted all my life in slothfulness. By thine intercessions deliver me from all uncleanness. Have mercy upon me, O God, in Thy great mercy: and according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.


translated from the original Greek by Mother Mary and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

The Formative Period (9th century), during this century, the chief center of activity shifts from Palestine to Constantinople, and within Constantinople to the Monastery of Studios, then at the height of its influence. It was 9th century Studite monks who not only gave to the Lenten Triodion its present structure, but also themselves composed the great part of its contents. This book, and likewise the Pentekostarion, are substantially the product of Studite editorial work. They bear the mark in particular of the two brothers Saint Theodore the Studite (759-826) and Saint Joseph the Studite, Archbishop of Thessalonica (762-832). Saint Theodore composed the second canon for weekdays in Lent, and his brother Joseph the first. These canons vary in content according to the day of the week: on Monday and Tuesday they are devoted to repentance; on Wednesday and Friday, to the Cross; on Thursday to the Holy Apostles; on Saturday, to the martyrs and the dead.

The Inner Unity of the Triodion

The Pre-Lenten Period. (a) The Sunday Zacchaeus. One week before the Triodion enters into us, there is a Sunday Gospel reading which looks forward directly to the coming fast-St. 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 Lent, there is real eagerness in our hearts, if we have an intense desire for a clearer vision of Christ, the our hopes will be fulfilled during the 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.

The Sunday of Publican and the Pharisee (Gospel reading: St. Luke 18:10-14). On this and the following two Sundays, the theme is repentance. Repentance is the door through which we enter Lent, the starting point of our journey to Pascha. And to repent signifies for more than self-pity or futile regret over things done in the past. The Greek term metanoia means 'change of mind': to repent is to be renewed, to be transformed in our inward viewpoint, to attain a fresh way of looking at our relationship to God and to others. The fault of the Pharisee is that he has no desire to change his outlook; he is complacent, self-satisfied, and so he allows no place for God to act within him. The Publican, on the other hand, truly longs for a 'change of mind'; he is self-dissatisfied, 'poor in spirit', and where there is the self-dissatisfaction there is room for God to act. Unless we learn the secret of the Publican's inward poverty, we shall not share in the Lenten springtime. The theme of the day can be summed up in a saying of the Desert Fathers: 'better a man who has sinned, if he knows that he has sinned and repents, than a man who has not sinned and thinks of himself as righteous.'

The Sunday of the Prodigal Son (Gospel reading: St. Luke 15:11-32). The parable of the Prodigal Son forms an exact icon of repentance in its different stages. Sin is exile, enslavement to strangers, hunger. Repentance is the from exile to our true home, it is to receive back our inheritance and freedom in the Father's house. But repentance implies action: "I will rise up and go…' (verse 18). To repent is not just to feel dissatisfied, but take a decision and to act upon it.

On this and the next two Sundays, after the solemn and joyful words of the Polyeleos at Matins, we add the sorrowful verses of Psalm 136, "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept..." This Psalm of exile, sung by the children of Israel in their Babylonian captivity, has a special appropriateness on the Sunday of the Prodigal, when we call to mind our present exile in sin and make the resolve to return home.

The Saturday of the Dead. On the day before the Sunday of Last Judgment, and in close connection of the dead 'from all the ages. (There are further commemorations of the dead on the second, third and fourth Saturdays in Lent.) Before we call to mind the Second Coming of Christ in the services on Sunday, we commend to God all those departed before us, who are now awaiting the Last Judgment. In the texts for this Saturday there is a strong sense of the continuing bond of mutual love that links together all the members of the Church, whether alive or dead. For those who believe in the risen Christ, death does not constitute an impassable barrier, since all are alive in Him; the departed are still our brethren, members of the same family with us, and so we are conscious of the need to pray insistently on their behalf.

(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.


Glory Be To GOD For All Things!


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

+Father George