Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit Orthodox Church
Archpriest Steven C. Kostoff
4285 Ashland Ave, Cincinnati OH 45212 - (513) 351-0907
Entering into Lenten Worship

The Triumph of Orthodoxy (First Sunday of Lent)
The Triumph of Orthodoxy (First Sunday of Lent)
The Triumph of Orthodoxy (First Sunday of Lent)

The Lenten Journey

A Threefold Effort

In a very real sense, the old saying about effort applies to Great Lent: "You get out of it what you put into it."  There is so much to the journey of Great Lent that to be fully experienced, and for it to have its greatest transforming effect on us, we must strive to enter into it in all its fullness.

Our increased practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving form the personal foundation. Together with the Sacrament of Confession, our personal ascetical effort, with the grace of God, helps free us from the shackles of earthly life and thinking. Christ becomes again our Center, His Church our Home. We will hopefully find ourselves slowing down, and embracing the quiet and measured pace of Lenten life.

Resources for our Personal Effort:

Committing to the increased cycle of church services, rather than making Lent more difficult, actually makes it easier for us to follow the Lenten path. Here at Christ the Savior, we have the Great Canon of Repentance by St Andrew of Crete the first four evenings of the first week, to start the Fast with an especially great effort, culminating with the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on Friday evening. Attending two or three or (hopefully) all of these weekday services has the effect of re-centering our hearts on Christ and His Church, while the importance of the world and all its distractions withers away.
The services of the remaining weekdays of Great Lent are less frequent, but no less important or helpful. We find ourselves eagerly looking forward to the darkened church, the 'bright sadness', the distinctive, compunctionate 'Lenten tone' of the hymns, and the gentle stillness of the Presanctified Liturgies on Wednesday evenings. Enveloped in our communal devotion to the Mother of God during the luminous Akathist Hymn, chanted on Friday evenings, we close out the work week with a quiet joy. These hushed and holy services help form in us a spiritual pulse, conveying God's grace to us and sustaining us through the Fast.
The Sundays of Great Lent are essential aids to this journey as well, presenting us with divine signposts, each with profound lessons for us as we proceed on our way. However, taken by themselves, without the weekday services, or without the personal effort of increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the Lenten Sundays lose some of their power, their context.
This is part of the mystery of why Great Lent is so beloved by practicing Orthodox. The threefold strands of personal ascetical effort, participation in the special weekday services, and our attentive presence for the Sunday services (which includes, by the way, our attendance for Great Vespers on Saturday evenings, which begins the Lord's Day) form a divinely woven cord by which we may climb to the heavens. To take another triadic image, these three components of our Lenten effort may be likened to a stool, which stands sturdily on three legs, but cannot effectively support anything if it is reduced to only one or two legs. That there are such strong trinities all throughout the Christian life should not surprise us, but rather move us to wonder at our Triune God Who lives in a communion of Three Divine Persons united in One Divine Essence.

Let us strive to live all three facets of the Lenten effort as fully as our circumstances allow. If you have specific questions on any aspect of this, contact Fr Steven, who can help you navigate the challenges we all face in living the Orthodox Christian Life in this world.