As last year, as this year, Great Lent, which is one of the most important periods of the year for Orthodox Christians, will be fasting of sacrifice. In the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine, this Lent takes on a special significance, as the war puts a heavy toll on everything that is part of people’s lives.
As the Orthodox Church of Ukraine emphasizes, despite these difficulties, the essence of fasting remains unchanged – it is sacrifice, intensified prayer, works of mercy, and self-restraint. Such actions are aimed at spiritual strengthening, spiritual support, and spiritual victory. In this regard, the OCU calls on its faithful to fast with these goals in mind.
Great Lent is the longest in the Orthodox tradition. It lasts seven weeks, or 48 days. The last week of fasting is called Passion (and each of its days is Great), while the previous six weeks are called Holy Pentecost.
The rules of Great Lent, which we observe today, were established in the early centuries, and consolidated and supplemented in the monasteries of the Orthodox Church in 6th – 11th centuries. These rules are intended for all Orthodox Christians, not just monks.
Great Lent has an exceptional statute of divine services, and among its features are the following:
- Full Divine liturgies are performed only on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on major holidays.
- The liturgy of previously consecrated gifts is performed on Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Three Saturdays of Great Lent are commemorative (second, third, and fourth).
- On the first four days of Great Lent, the penitential canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read at Vespers. It is read again in its entirety on Wednesday evening of the fifth week of fasting.
- At the end of every Lent service from Monday to Friday, as well as on the first three days of Holy Week, the prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian, which was composed in the 4th century, is recited with prostrations.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Epifaniy compared the path of fasting with that of compassion for Jesus Christ. How did Christ suffer? He was innocent! He did not suffer for His sins, because as the Son of God He is sinless and has never committed any evil. Currently, the entire Ukrainian people are suffering in the terrible realities of war. These sufferings are also innocentbecause the Ukrainian people have not done any harm to Russia, which has attacked us and is tormenting us. And so what we are suffering now, from a spiritual perspective, is compassion for Christ, that is, innocent suffering.
“Our suffering is great, the cross that we all carry with you is also heavy. However, let us be comforted by the realization that our innocent sufferings will certainly be crowned with victory and eternal glory, just as the sufferings of Christ were crowned,” the Orthodox Church of Ukraine said in the posting.
The Church wished all faithful to start the journey of Great Lent, enhancing their strength and being inspired by the awareness of the inevitability of the victory of truth, good, and light.