“O Lord of hosts, be with us, for we have none other help in times of sorrow but Thee. O Lord of hosts, have mercy on us.” – from Great Compline
Great Lent begins on Monday, March 15. Orthodox Christians worldwide use this time for self-reflection, fasting, almsgiving, repentance and purification in anticipation of the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Blessed by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, the Online Liturgical Guide has provided a wealth of resources to guide clergy and laity through prayer and worship during this sacred time of year.
Governmental restrictions on gatherings still widely vary across North America in hopes of stopping the spread of the Coronavirus. That’s why the OLG publishes guides for Readers Services for the faithful to use at home without the presence of a priest. Scroll to “Seasonal Liturgical Resources” to find instructions for readers versions of Great Compline for Mondays-Thursdays of Great Lent, as well as for Little Compline with the Akathist Hymn for Fridays in Great Lent, which are especially helpful in times of great affliction. For weekends and the great feast of the Annunciation, the OLG offers instructions for readers vespers, orthros and typika under “Permanent Liturgical Resources.” Thus, the faithful can stand in front of their icons at home and still participate in the life of the Church during this difficult time. Even if we cannot sing the words, we can certainly read them plainly and reverently.
On weekdays of Great Lent, the Orthodox Church does not celebrate a festive Divine Liturgy (except for the Annunciation). However, so as not to deprive the clergy and faithful of Holy Communion, parishes offer the Presanctified Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Dialogist on Wednesday nights, using a Eucharist that was consecrated the previous Sunday. Parishes can offer this same Liturgy on Fridays in Great Lent before Little Compline with the Akathist Hymn. On Saturdays, parishes can celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. On the first Saturday, we commemorate the miracle of the boiled wheat (kolyva) wrought by St. Theodore the Soldier. (Read about the miracle in the Synaxarion.)
This year, Great and Holy Week runs from April 25-May 1, with Great and All-holy Pascha on Sunday, May 2. The Online Liturgical Guide produces few materials for this week. From now, parishes should order their copies of the Archdiocese’s book Services of Great and Holy Week and Pascha for use by clergy and laity.
Each Sunday of Great Lent has a special theme to help Orthodox Christians in their journey to Great and All-holy Pascha. Even the four Sundays before Great Lent have special themes which are explained at the Synaxarion in Orthros. In March of 2021:
March 7: Sunday of the Last Judgment, a sober reminder of how God will judge us according to our deeds and how to make ourselves worthy of His kingdom.
March 14: Sunday of Forgiveness, a reminder of how we must forgive each other as God forgives us so that we may return to His paradise. We also remember Adam and Eve’s expulsion from paradise on this day.
March 21: First Sunday of Lent, Sunday of Orthodoxy, when the Church commemorates the restoration of the holy icons, once and for all, in the ninth century. Not only are icons “windows” into the Kingdom of Heaven, they also depict our Savior as fully God and fully human and remind us to return to that fullness with which He created us.
March 28: Second Sunday of Great Lent, when the Church remembers St. Gregory Palamas, archbishop of Thessalonica. He taught hesychasm, or inner, still and deep prayer important during the Great Fast as the devil constantly seeks to pull Orthodox Christians away from God.
The Online Liturgical Guide, produced by the Department of Liturgics, provides the official, uniform word-for-word texts to be used for the divine services in all parishes across the Archdiocese. Should you have any questions, especially for navigating the services, please contact Subdeacon Peter Samore OLG@antiochian.org.