The period of Great Lent before the celebration of Easter is a time for self-examination by all faithful Orthodox Christians. It is a time for prayer and almsgiving, of knowing and applying the deep meaning of repentance, and of atonement and reconciliation with Almighty God. Lent consists of 40 days which precede the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is also a period of abstinence not only from foods, but primarily from personal sins. During this time we, the faithful, should make special attempts to evaluate our calling as a Christians and to listen to the voice of the Gospel and heed its commandments. It gives to each of us an open invitation to willingly accept Christ and enter His Kingdom by repentance.

To accomplish this – not just during Lent but throughout the year – the Church has established specific days of prayer and fasting as steps in a ladder to provide guidance in helping reach a higher and more meaningful spiritual life. All of these steps must have a sincere personal meaning for each of us in order to avoid becoming a habit or routine. Lent is a time of self-examination and preparation, by taking an inventory of one’s inner thoughts and life. By reading the Gospel one finds the means to correct and improve him or herself. During Lent we are given the opportunity to strengthen our faith by increasing our prayer and devotional life.

Instead of watching the news or reading an entertainment magazine, take time to edify yourself by reading the Holy Scripture, the writings of the Fathers of the Church, and the many other books and collections which will provide nourishment to your soul. Much of the devotional literature of our Church consists of parts of the New Testament expressed in rhythm as religious poems – hymns which have been combined with prose. This indicates that these hymns were used by the early Christians in their corporate worship. Some of these hymns are reflections of the Old Testament which give them Christian relevance. Others are original in content and phraseology.

The hymns during the Lenten Season are especially meaningful for Orthodox Christians in their spiritual preparation. They are expressive of one’s repentance, acknowledging his or her sins and negligence. The Lenten hymns cry out for God’s mercy and love, calling upon Him to forgive iniquities, evil thoughts, and failure to keep His commandments. The hymnology of our Church uplifts our souls and allows us to express our faith in song, and to offer prayers of thanksgiving, worship and repentance through the offering of our sinful voices. Even in our sorrowful state, we Orthodox faithful praise and glorify God and His Creation, seeking His guidance and compassion. It is when we humble ourselves before Him and live our lives according to His commandments that we will truly be prepared at the end of Great and Holy Lent to celebrate His glorious Resurrection!