There are so many terms that we Orthodox Christians use which are unfamiliar to the rest of the world. The Lenten season is certainly no exception to this rule, as we enter into the Triodion, celebrate Cheesefare/Meatfare, attend Presanctified Divine Liturgies, and more. It is appropriate for us to review what these Lenten terms mean, and it is especially important for us to make sure our children understand them! This blog will offer basic definitions of Lenten terminology, and point us to places where we can find more information about each term.
Triodion: “The Triodion [is a season of preparation for Pascha which] begins ten weeks before Easter and is divided into three main parts: three Pre-Lenten weeks of preparing our hearts, the six weeks of Lent, and Holy Week. The main theme of the Triodion is repentance—mankind’s return to God, our loving Father.” from http://www.antiochian.org/fasting-great-lent.
“The Triodion” is also what we call the book which contains the variables for the divine services during this time of the Church year. It’s actually called ‘Triodion’ because there are only three odes in the canons during this season; rather than the usual nine.” ~ by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes, http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/explanationoftriodion.htm. You can find each day’s section of the Triodion here: http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/prayers/triodion/triodion.html.
Meatfare: “Meatfare” is the day we say “farewell” to meat, before the fast begins. Read more about Meatfare from St. Theodore the Studite, at http://www.antiochian.org/catechesis-st-theodore-studite-meatfare-sunday.
Cheesefare: “Cheesefare” is the day we say “farewell” to cheese, before the fast begins. Read more about Cheesefare Sunday and find links to even more about it at http://www.antiochian.org/cheesefaresunday.
Clean Monday: “Clean Monday” is the name given to the first day of the Lenten fast. Read more about this day, including how it is traditionally celebrated in Greece, and find some Greek Lenten recipes here: http://orthodoxtraditions.blogspot.com/2014/02/clean-monday-menu.html.
Fasting: “Fasting” means not eating specific (or, sometimes, all) food. We fast to remind ourselves that “man does not live by bread alone,” that spiritual things are so much more important than physical things. Adam and Eve first sinned by eating, so we choose to not eat, to help us to also remember not to sin. Read more about fasting here: http://www.antiochian.org/fasting-great-lent. Find quotes about fasting from church fathers and contemporary writers as well here: http://www.antiochian.org/taxonomy/term/1146.
Compline: “Compline” means “at the end of the work day” or “after supper” and is a service of Psalms and prayers appropriate for reflecting on the day and asking God’s guidance and blessing on the night ahead. You can find the lenten compline service here: http://www.antiochianladiocese.org/files/service_texts/great_lent/great_compline/Great-Compline-LENT.pdf.
Presanctified Divine Liturgy: “The Presanctified Divine Liturgy is an evening service. It is the solemn lenten Vespers with the administration of Holy Communion added to it. There is no consecration of the eucharistic gifts at the presanctified liturgy. Holy Communion is given from the eucharistic gifts sanctified on the previous Sunday…” Read more about the Presanctified Liturgy at http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/liturgy-of-the-presanctified-gifts.
Akathist: The “Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God” is so named because “the word ‘akathistos’ literally means ‘not sitting,’ i.e., standing; normally all participants stand while it is being prayed. The hymn is comprised of 24 stanzas, alternating long and short… As the hymn progresses, various individuals and groups encounter Christ and His Mother. Each has his own need; each his own desire or expectation, and each finds his or her own particular spiritual need satisfied and fulfilled in Our Lord and in the Mother of God. So too, each generation of Orthodox, and each particular person who has prayed the Akathist, has found in this hymn an inspired means of expressing gratitude and praise to the Mother of God for what she has accomplished for their salvation.” You can find more information about the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, along with the hymn itself, at http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/m_akathist_e.htm.
Prostration: “is a full bow to the ground with the knees touching the ground, and the head touching or near the ground, then immediately standing back up. As the bow to the ground is begun, the sign of the cross is made. Some people touch their knees to the ground first and then bend their upper body down, and the more athletic or coordinated essentially ‘fall’ forward to the ground with their knees and hands touching at essentially the same time. This is very similar to the familiar gym class ‘burpee’.” ~ from http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/o-lord-and-master-of-my-life-prayer-of-st-ephrem-01.html.
Prayer of St. Ephraim: This prayer is also called the “Lenten Prayer,” and originated with St. Ephraim the Syrian, who lived in the fourth century. Fr. Alexander Schmemann calls it “a checklist for our spiritual lives” and emphasizes that this prayer, along with other spiritual disciplines of Great Lent, can help us to be freed from basic spiritual diseases that make it almost impossible for us to turn toward God. Here is a blog that offers insights into the prayer of St. Ephrem, quoting Church Fathers and Orthodox authors: http://modeoflife.org/the-lenten-prayer-of-saint-ephraim-explained/.
Holy Week: “Holy Week” is a week that truly lives up to its name: it is the holiest week of the Church year; there are many holy services to attend during the week; and we should all be very holy by the time we arrive at Holy Week, having just been through the discipline of Great Lent. The Rev. George Mastrantonis says that “Holy Week… institutes the sanctity of the whole calendar year of the Church. Its center of commemorations and inspiration is Easter, wherein the glorified Resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated.” He goes on to compare Holy Week to a sanctuary, that (because of the preparation of Lent) we enter “not as spectators, but as participants in the commemoration and enactment of the divine Acts that changed the world.” Read more of his explanation here: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8432. Find details about each service that we celebrate during Holy Week here: http://www.antiochian.org/1175027131.
Lamentations: “…the Lamentations refers to the Funeral Service for our Lord. It is actually the Orthros (Martins) for Saturday morning. The Lamentations is the form of a poetic dirge sung antiphonally by two or more groups of people. It is made up of a large number of verses divided in three long stanzas. As one stanza ends, the other begins with a different music. It sees that they were introduced not earlier than the 13th century. The author of these Lamentations is said to be St. Romanos Melodos. The Lamentations are also called Encomia, hymns of praise…” ~ Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes, http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/explanationoftriodion.htm.
Pascha: “Pascha, the name by which Orthodox Christians know the yearly celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, comes from the Hebrew word for ‘Passover.’ In the Old Testament, the Hebrew people ‘passed over’ from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, with Moses at their head. But this event was only a foreshadowing of something bigger and better to come. In the New Testament, the whole human race ‘passed over’ from slavery under the devil in sin and death to freedom in grace and eternal life, with the risen Christ as its head!… That is why Pascha is our greatest joy and brightest hope as Orthodox Christians! It is the cornerstone of our faith and the main point of the good news we have for the rest of the world. But Pascha is not just the remembrance of something that happened long ago and far away. It has happened to us in our lifetime too. Baptism was our personal Pascha. It made Christ’s death and resurrection our own: our old sinful selves were put to death and buried in its holy waters, after which we were raised up out of them, washed clean of sin and born again to a new life in him.”
Read more about Pascha here http://www.htoc-fl.org/downloads/pascha.pdf, and refresh your memory of how the Pascha service goes with Fr. Thomas Hopko’s article about it here: http://www.feastoffeasts.org/node/55.
Bright Week: “Bright Week” begins on the Sunday of Pascha and ends on Thomas Sunday. It may be called that because the newly baptized people were now illumined, or bright. Also, they wore white all week, so sometimes it is called “White week.” Bright week is a happy time of celebrating Pascha, and the whole week, the doors to the altar are left open as a happy reminder of the torn veil that opened the Holy of Holies in the Temple after Christ’s death, as well as the open stone that led to the empty tomb! Read more about Bright Week here: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/04/what-is-bright-week.html.
Here are some ideas of ways to help your children learn their Lenten vocabulary words:
Teach the Lenten vocabulary words one at a time. The best way to teach new words is as they come up in conversation (or, in this case, as you anticipate hearing them being used at church). Generally speaking, children learn new terminology better when it is used in context instead of just randomly taught. As you teach each word, ask the children what they already know about it. What do they remember from other years? Try to build as much of a framework around the word as possible for them to “hang the word on.” Then fill in whatever they’ve missed in the definition.
As you begin this learning experience, from time to time, ask your children what one of the words which you already talked about means. Or, give them a definition and see if they can provide the Lenten vocabulary word that fits that definition. Before too long, they will know all of these terms and be able to correctly apply them.
Apply the vocabulary words by making posters about them. Write each Lenten vocabulary word on a sheet of paper or poster paper. Work together to compile magazine picture collages or to draw sketches that remind you of what each word means. (The illustration could be a silly thing like someone waving at a piece of cheese for “Cheesefare,” etc.) Be creative, and then post your work in a place where you will see it and be reminded of the meanings of these words throughout the Lenten season.
Personalize the vocabulary words by making small vocab books for each child. Make booklets for each child, writing one lenten vocabulary word on each page. As you discuss the words’ meanings, have each child draw or write in their own words to remind themselves of the definitions.
Practice the vocabulary with card games. Make a set of playing cards by printing one of the Lenten vocabulary terms on a set of blank cards. Make a second set with a basic definition printed on each one. Use the cards in one of these two ways:
Play “memory” with them. Mix all of the playing cards well, and turn them upside down so that all that can be seen is the back of the card. Lay the cards out in even rows. Take turns turning two cards face-up. If you find a pair, you keep it and go again. If not, turn the cards back upside down again, and play moves on to the next player.
2. Play a matching game with the cards: Mix both sets of cards together, and pass out a few to each player (number will vary by number of players), leaving at least one card per player upside down on a “draw” pile. When it is his turn, a player asks another for a word (if he has the definition in his hand) or the definition (if he is holding the word). If the asked player has the card being asked for, he must turn it over to the asker. If not, the asker should draw a card from the “draw” pile (until the draw pile runs out). As soon as a player makes a matching pair, she lays the pair down on the table in front of her. Play continues until all matches have been made. The player with the most matched pairs wins the game. (Actually, all players who have learned their Lenten vocabulary are winners!)
Play an active game with the vocabulary words after everyone knows their meanings. Print one Lenten vocabulary word each, in large print, on sheets of paper until all of the words have their own sheet. Print the definitions on smaller cards. In a large open area (perhaps outside?), scatter the sheets of large-printed-vocabulary-word-papers around the playing area. One person is the “caller.” The caller holds the smaller cards and, one by one, reads one definition. As soon as a player recognizes the word whose meaning is being read by the caller, the player runs to that word. Points can be awarded in two ways (decide before beginning play): a) Every person who goes to the correct word gets a point. b) The first person who gets to the correct word gets a point. (Or, to combine the two, everyone who goes to the correct word gets one point, and the first person there gets two points!) The person with the most points at the end of the caller’s stack of definition cards is the winner.