The first week of Great Lent finally arrived, after a time of Holy Nativity and Theophany celebrations with the blessing of houses, combined with the preparatory weeks before Lent.
On Sunday, March 1st, at 3PM, the large bell toned very solemnly as the brethren, seminarians, and pilgrims greeted His Grace, Vladyka Luke, who was then vested solemnly before the beginning of 9th Hours, followed by Great Vespers, served together with the monastery clergy.
After the prayer, “Vouchsafe Oh Lord, …” the service changed to the Great Lenten tone of black vestments and the Great Lenten melodies with one priest finishing the service. At 8PM, after the evening meal, Small Compline was served with Vladyka in his Lenten mantia coming out of the altar with the Royal Gates opened, whereupon he gave an instructive sermon on the true meaning of fasting and how mutual forgiveness is so much a foundation of our true Lenten feat.
He followed this with reading the Lenten dismissal and asking forgiveness of all. This was followed with the traditional veneration of the icons combined with the service of mutual forgiveness with not only the brethren and seminarians participating, but also our neighbors and even pilgrims.
The next morning, all gathered in church for the Midnight Office, followed by Matins and First Hour. Interspersed, according to the Typicon were readings from the Holy Fathers, read by Vladyka, while the two kleroses chanted the hymns and canticles as prescribed the Lenten Triodion. At the end of First Hour, there was the veneration of the icons with the blessing of our abbot and a brief rest. At around 9:15AM, once again in church for the Hours and Vespers. This is followed by a litiya for the dead, when all the names for whom the monastery prays are read. Finally, around 1PM, we had our one meal of the day, which consisted of potatoes, pickled vegetables, olives, bread, tea and apple sauce.
Such was the schedule every day, with the exception of having the Presanctified Liturgy served on Wednesday and Friday by Vladyka and the monastery clergy. The monastery tradition calls for everyone in the community to prepare for the mysteries of Confession and Holy Communion on Saturday.
Also, of course, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete was read by His Grace, Vladyka Luke every evening during the service of Great Compline, attended by many of our neighbors and pilgrims.
On Friday, after the Presanctified Liturgy, boiled wheat (koliva) was blessed during the reading of the canon to St. Theodore Tiron. This made a delicious addition, along with the traditional stewed dried fruit at the following meal.
Friday night and Saturday morning were dedicated to confessions. The rule for Communion was read during the Great Compline. Saturday morning was truly a feast as the whole community participated in the Divine Liturgy and partook of the Holy Mysteries.
Thus, the monastery community finished the First Week of Great Lent, in preparation for the rest of Lent and ultimately, for Holy Pascha.