SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5: Easter may seem just a twinkle in the eye of Old Man Winter right now, but Eastern Orthodox Christians are already beginning their pre-Lenten preparations. Today begins the Lenten Triodion, a period of preparation for the upcoming Lenten season by reflecting on a series of spiritual themes.
The Lenten Triodion, specifically, is a book of traditional liturgies for the entire season of Great Lent.
Pre-Lent lasts for three weeks, focusing on four Sunday themes: Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Sunday of the Last Judgment and Sunday of Forgiveness. That last Sunday also is called Cheesefare and is the last day before Great Lent begins with Clean Monday on February 27 this year. (Get details from OrthodoxWiki.)
Slowly, Orthodox Christians ease into the strict fasting of Lent with Gospel reflections and mounting restrictions on their daily diet. The third week of pre-Lent—beginning with the Sunday of Last Judgment, or Meatfare Sunday—forbids the intake of meat, and the final Sunday of pre-Lent, during which dairy products are consumed for the last time before Pascha, makes way for Clean Monday. (Puzzled by the dates? Check out a 2012 calendar from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.)
Western Christians begin the Lenten season in a couple of weeks—this year on February 22 with Ash Wednesday. If you’ll be enjoying the final days before Lent by traveling for Mardi Gras or Carnival, which falls on February 22 this year, be sure to check out an article from Empowered News about health tips for travelers.
The Eastern Christian Triodion is named after the canons appointed for the morning services, or Matins, which are composed of three odes each during this period. (Download Lenten Triodion music, in a variety of languages, courtesy of the Orthodox Church in America.)
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.