In Orthodox understanding, Great Lent is called the “spring of the soul.” So once again, our All-Merciful Lord has granted us to arrive at this soul-saving time of the Church year. With the passing of the first week, the monastery-seminary community has whole-heartedly turned its heart over to this special time of repentance and fasting with prayer.
On Sunday, March 10, Forgiveness Sunday, at 3PM, the monastery bells called all to Great Vespers for the meeting of Bishop Luke, our abbot. The first part of this vespers service are very solemn and festive. Then, with the chanting of the Great Prokeimenon, “Do not turn Thy face away from Thy child, O Lord,” the mood dramatically changes to that of Great Lent, and the service is finished with one hieromonk in black serving.
The evening meal was served at its usual time, perhaps more abundant that usual, as the kitchen tries to rid itself of all food prohibited during Great Lent. At 8PM, a bit later than usual, so that the kitchen workers can also participate, Small Compline is served, at the end of which, our abbot, Bishop Luke, vested in his mantia, read the Great Lenten dismissal for Great Compline and gave a short sermon in both Russian and English on the importance of forgiveness of all people around us in order for ourselves to be forgiven by our Heavenly Father. He then asked forgivenss of all of us, and we proceeded with the usual veneration of icons and mutual forgiveness in order of rank. This involved perhaps around 75 or more people, monastics, seminarians, neighbors and pilgrims.
At the end of this moving service, many proceeded to the monastery refectory to avail themselves of the traditional last opportunity to have ice cream.
The next morning, at 5:30, the wooden sementron was rung to awake and call the brethren to the Midnight Office. This service was followed by Matins and the First Hour, all intertwined with readings from the Holy Fathers, read in English and Russian by Vladyka Luke. After First Hour, there is a small break, and then Third Hour, Sixth Hour, Ninth Hour, Typica, and Vespers are served, at the end of which a Litya is served during which the names of all those whose names are written in the monastery commemoration books are read. At the conclusion of this, around 1PM, a light lunch is served, consisting of boiled potatoes, pickled vegetables, bread, honey, peanut butter, another vegetable, tea, and applesauce. There is only one meal a day during the First Week.
In the evening, at 6PM, Great Compline is served with Vladyka Luke reading the Great Canon. Basically this is the order during the First Week, with the difference being that on Wednesday and Friday, the bishop served the Presanctified Liturgy with the monastery clergy, and soup is served in the refectory.
At the end of the Friday liturgy, a moleben is served to Great Martyr Theodore the Tyron, during which boiled wheat (kolivo) is blessed. This is served at lunch along with stewed fruit. During the evening Great Compline servie, the order for Communion is read and all the community go to Confession. All the appropriate prayers before Communion are read in church.
Saturday morning, again, Midnight Office, Matins and the communion prayers are read. At 8:30AM, the Meeting of the Bishop was held and the pontificial divine liturgy was served, during which everyone blessed to do so, partook of the Holy Mysteries. This being the 11th anniversary of the blessed repose of Metropolitan Laurus, our previous bishop abbot, a litya was served at the end of liturgy.