The Season of the Triodion
THERE IS MORE TO LENT THAN FASTING, and there is more to fasting than food. This principle lies at the heart of the Lenten Triodion, the main hymnbook of Orthodox Lent. For the Orthodox Church, Lent is without doubt the richest and most distinctive season of the ecclesiastical year. The Lenten services, the spiritual lessons of the Triodion, and the biblical readings for the season invite us to simplify our lives and to immerse ourselves in the “bright sadness” of repentance.
Orthodox Lent begins on Clean Monday, seven weeks before Pascha, when Orthodox Christians celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection. But before
Lent begins, it is announced in advance. This preparation for Lent is made above all through the Lenten Triodion, which makes its appearance in the liturgical life of the Church three weeks prior to Lent, on the Sunday of the Tax-Collector (or Publican) and the Pharisee. The Triodion remains a regular feature of the Church’s liturgical life until the end of Holy Week.
Written for the devout Christian, the Triodion is full of warnings against pride and hypocrisy—the ultimate spiritual sins to which religious folk are so susceptible. Its hymns teach us the true nature and purpose of fasting and of Lent itself.
A Guide to the Season of the Triodion
Sunday of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee (Beginning of the Triodion)
Meat Week (The usual Wednesday and Friday fasts Orthodox Christians observe throughout most of the year are suspended for this week)
Sunday of the Prodigal Son (Second Sunday of the Triodion)
Sunday of the Last Judgment/ Meatfare Sunday (Third Sunday of the Triodion)
Cheesefare Week (Fasting from meat only all week)
Forgiveness Sunday/Cheesefare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of the Triodion)
CLEAN MONDAY (Lent begins). For the next forty days we fast from meat and dairy. Fish is permitted on the Great Feasts of the Annunciation (March 25) and Palm Sunday. Wine and oil are permitted on all Saturdays and Sundays with the exception of Great and Holy Saturday (the day before Pascha/ Easter Sunday).
Sunday of Orthodoxy (First Sunday of Lent)
Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas (Second Sunday of Lent)
Sunday of the Cross (Third Sunday of Lent)
Sunday of St. John Climacus (Fourth Sunday of Lent)
The Canon of St. Andrew (Evening of Wednesday or morning of Thursday of the fifth week of Lent)
The Akathist Hymn (Evening of the Friday of the fifth week of Lent)
Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt (Fifth Sunday of Lent)
Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday (End of Lent/Beginning of Holy Week)
HOLY WEEK (From the evening of Palm Sunday until Great and Holy Saturday). The rules of Lenten fasting apply also to Holy Week
~Vassilios Papavassiliou, Meditations for Great Lent: Reflections on the Triodion