In the Divine Services for the fifth week of Great Lent the Holy Church continues to call us to an active bearing of the Lenten efforts, appealing: “Through abstinence the faithful have a fortress with God, through others let us youthfully run the holy course”. “In fervent faith let us burn up the lustful passions with abstinence, and flee from the icy cold of sin; with the streams of our tears let us quench the eternal flame”. “Let us make our own pure fasting, tears, meditation on the divine things, and every other virtue; and let us now offer our Lady to Christ”. The general consolation is encouraging to the bearing of the Lenten effort, and the Holy Church presents us the idea that half of the effort is already accomplished and that its end, Christ’s Resurrection, is near. “Having passed the middle point,” hymns the Holy Church, “in this dedicated way of fasting, let us go forward joyfully to the part that still remains, anointing our souls with the oil of good deeds. So let us be worthy to venerate the divine Passion of Christ our God, to attain His dread and holy Resurrection”. Together with this the Holy Church motivates her children to fervent continuation of bearing the Lenten efforts and reminds them about “the most glorious grace” “the most honorable fast, through which the prophet Elijah found the fiery chariot, and Moses received the Tablets; Daniel was magnified, and Elisha raised the dead, the Children quenched the fire, and all men are reconciled to God”, and inspires us that “good fasting feeds our hearts, ripening within us thoughts pleasing to God, and causing the abyss of our passions to dry up, and with the rain of compunction it cleanses those who in faith offer praise to the Almighty”, and that “the fasting of the ascetics receives their reward” from God: “Peace and illumination and the healing of our broken souls”, “mercy on our souls”, “a sweetness that grows not old”. Such exhortations strengthening us in the ascetic efforts of fasting, the Holy Church inspires us to pray to the Lord that He grant, “The season of Lent will end peacefully”. The intensification at the end of the Lenten expanse of promoting an unrelenting way of life pleasing to God, the Holy Church even during the present week continues to remind us that we have run into sin, similarly to running into robbers, and inspires us to expect mercy from the Lord. In particular Thursday and Saturday of this week are marked with special destination.
On Tuesday at Compline we sing the service from the Menaion appointed for the Saint on Thursday of the Great Canon. On Tuesday there is a reading of the Great Canon and the serving of the Presanctified Liturgy, if Annunciation Day falls on Wednesday or Thursday (see below). On Wednesday evening and on Thursday Matins and Vespers we ring “the beautiful bells”, that is, not Lenten. On Wednesday at Vespers besides the 5 stichera of St Joseph the Studite we sing the 24 alphabetic stichera of St. Andrew of Crete from which each sticheron ends in the words: “O Lord, before I perish utterly, save me”; refrains for them begin from the last verse of Psalm 140 (from the verse: “fall into their own nets”); after the end of the refrains of the psalm, for the rest we sing: “Glory to Thee, our God, Glory to Thee”. The Little Compline is said in the cells. The Midnight Service is also done in the cells.” At the meal those who want to partake of oil and wine for the labor of the Vigil; paying attention that it remains that we are saved by abstinence: the vast majority is to fast without measure”.
Thursday of the Fifth Week
At Matins on this day the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read in its entirety once a year, which was read in four parts on the first four days of the first week, and the Life of St. Mary of Egypt is read after the Sessional Hymn (Kathisma). According to this feature of the Thursday Matins it is called either the St. Andrew of Crete or the St. Mary of Egypt Thursday. In the Canon are collected and stated, as was stated above (see page 510), all the exhortations to fasting and repentance, and the Holy Church repeats it now in its fullness to inspire us new strength for the successful end to Lent. “Since”, it is said in the Synaxarion, “the Holy Forty Day Lent is drawing near the end so that men should not become lazy, or more carelessly disposed to the spiritual efforts, or give up their abstinence altogether,” that this Great Canon is offered. It is “so long, and so well-composed, as to be sufficient to soften even the hardest soul, and to rouse it to resumption of the good, if only it is sung with a contrite heart and proper attention”. And the church Typikon (Ustav) orders the Great Canon to be read and chanted slowly and “with a contrite heart and voice, making three prostrations at each Troparion”. For the same purpose of abstinence and strength, and attention to repentance is the reading of the Life of the Venerable Mary of Egypt. According to an explanation of the same Synaxarion, the Life of the Venerable Mary also “manifests infinite compunction and gives much encouragement to the fallen and sinners”, representing itself to us as a paradigm of true repentance, and an example of the unutterable mercy of God. It serves as the continuation of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete and a transition to the order of the following Sunday. Reading the Canon of St. Andrew and Mary of Egypt on the Thursday of the Fifth Week was established from the time of the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
Kontakion, tone 6
My soul, my soul, arise. Why are you sleeping?
The end is approaching,
And you will be confounded.
Awake, therefore, that you may be spared by Christ God.
Who is everywhere present and fills all things.
S. V. Bulgakov, Handbook for Church Servers, 2nd ed., 1274 pp. (Kharkov, 1900) pp. 0523-5 Translated by Archpriest Eugene D. Tarris © January 9, 2004. All rights reserved.