Father Nektarios Serfes - Orthodox Spirituality  Last Modified March 9th, 2003

Icon of Christ The Bridegroom
Icon of Christ The Bridegroom
Explanation of Triodion, Great Lent, & Holy Week, Leading up to the end of the Pentecostarion
By Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Boise, Idaho

By the Grace and love of our Lord God once we enter Holy Great Lent which always begins on a Monday, and known as Clean Monday, there are commemorations for each weekend (and during the weekdays), leading up to Holy Week and Holy Pascha -our Lord’s Holy Glorious Resurrection, and thereafter the commemorating period of the Pentecostarion to the end which concludes on the Sunday of the Blind Man.

Let us keep in mind that the dates of these services indicated during the Triodion, Great Lent, and the Pentecostarion are movable feast in the Orthodox Church.

Before Orthodox Christians enter Great Lent the Church prepares us with what it calls the Triodion.

What is the Triodion?
This is the Orthodox liturgical book that contains the variable portions of the Liturgy and other services for a particular period of the Orthodox ecclesiastical calendar. It begins on the fourth Sunday before the Great Lent, the Sunday of the Prodigal, and ends on Saturday of the Holy Week. Triodion is also called the period between the Sunday of the Prodigal and Holy Pascha. The name derives from the fact that during the season the Canons contain only three odes instead of the usual nine. The canon is a series of nine hymns, ‘odes’ used at the Orthros (Matins). The nine odes vary so as to correspond with the theme of the particular feast. The introduction of canons is ascribed to St. Andrew of Crete. Other famous authors of Canons are Melodos, St. John Damascus, and St. Theodore the Studion.

How did the Orthodox Church determine the celebration and date of Holy Pascha?
For more information about this subject matter you can access the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website which best explains this determination; Dating Pascha in the Orthodox Church

Why is the celebration in the Orthodox Church that it calls Holy Pascha the day of Resurrection so important?
Holy Pascha the day of Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is very important in the Orthodox Church, because it’s the greatest and oldest feast in the Christian calendar. Especially for Orthodox Christians there is no greater feast then celebration of Holy Pascha. Let us note that the celebration of Holy Pascha has preeminence among the Orthodox are many, all based on a particular passage of the Holy Apostle St. Paul First Epistle to the Corinthians, ‘if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain’ (15:14).

Characteristic of the importance of the Resurrection for the Orthodox is the fact that Holy Pascha is also called in Greek “Lampra’, the brightest day of all. At the mid-night Paschal Divine Liturgy the Resurrection light that is brought to the Orthodox home and to the graves of our loved ones, is taken to be the visible symbol of a new life in the Resurrected Christ, a life of joy after the sorrow of the Cross. And though the Passion is observed with the depth and significance it befits the supreme sacrifice of Christ, it is His Resurrection that seals the redemption issuing from the Cross.

Without it, the Orthodox feel, the divine drama would have remained unfulfilled in terms of the experience of human life by which a triumphant katharsis must follow all sacrifices including that on Golgotha. In the Orthodox Church the Sunday Liturgy of the year is devoted to the Resurrection rather than to the suffering Christ. Hence the joyful tone the Orthodox Eucharist and underlying victory against the forces of evil implied in the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. In this respect, the etymology of Pascha claimed by some as deriving from the Greek verb ‘paschein’ (to suffer) is erroneous. The name Pascha is merely the approximate rendering by sound of the Hebrew name for Passover. Therefore Christ Passover from death to life –offering to us all everlasting life through His Glorious Resurrection.

What is the Pentecostarion?
The Pentecostarion also spelled Pentekostarion is the Orthodox liturgical books containing prayers, hymns, and readings for the season between Pascha Sunday and the Sunday of All Saints (First Sunday after Holy Pentecost).

What is an Epitaphios?
On Friday morning, the service of Apokathelosis (taking down from the Cross) of the Body of Christ is held. The Gospel relating to the Crucifixion and the receiving of the body of Christ by Joseph of Arimathea for burial is read. At the moment the Gospel mentions the Apokathelosis, the body taken down from the Cross, wrapped up in a white sheet, and taken into the Holy Altar. Then, the gold-embroidered ceremonial cloth, bearing the depiction of the dead Christ with His Mother and disciples looking over Him, is brought out in solemn procession and placed in rest in the wooden sepulcher Epitaphios. The dome of the Epitaphios has been already covered with fresh flowers by women, in remembrance of the Biblical women who performed the traditional rites of respect to the dead Christ.

Why is then the Epitaphios decorated with flowers, and I noticed the priest sprinkles a fragrance around the tomb?
The flowers on the Epitaphios symbolize with their fragrance the myrrh with which the body of Christ was anointed by the women as also does the sprinkling with rosewater by the priest later in the service of the Epitaphios?

What are the Lamentations sung in the Orthodox Church on Holy Friday evening before the Epitaphios by the priest and the congregation?
At the evening service on Holy Friday, called Epitaphios Threnos, the famous Lamentations are sung by groups of people from the entire congregation along with the choir and the priest. Therefore 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 tow 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 then the 13th century. The author of these Lamentations is said to be St. Romanos Melodos. The Lamentations are also called Encomia, hymns of praise, eulogy, a solemn panygeric.

The verses of the Lamentations are filled with moving expressions that can hardly fail to generate deep sorrow “for the sunset, even though temporary, of the unending Light, for the loss of spring of Life and of the light of the eyes of the Virgin’. Angels, prophets, men, birds, the noblest from the animals, stars and the entire inanimate nature, all that is in heaven and all that is on earth, ache together and are shaken from the depths of their hearts upon seeing Life being buried. But God, being the Light and the Resurrection, will rise again. And lo, the myrrh bearing women proceed to the tomb but the angel stands by the rolled away stone ready to announce the Good News to them and through them to the world for all time to come: ‘Christ Is Risen!’

Can you tell me the order of the cycle of services that start with the Triodion, then the services for Great Lent that are observed during the week, and weekends, up until Holy Week, Holy Pascha, and then to the end of the Pentecostarion

For The Year 2003

February 16th - Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

February 23rd - Sunday of the Prodigal Son

March 1st - First Saturday of Souls

March 2nd - Meat-Fare Sunday: The Sunday of the Last Judgment (Last day for meat products)

March 8th - Second Saturday of Souls : The Commemoration of all our Righteous and God-bearing Fathers and Mothers Who Shone Forth in the Ascetic Life

March 9th - Cheese-Fare Sunday : The Sunday of Forgiveness, the Commemoration Adam Exile from Paradise (Last day for cheese-products)

Beginning of Holy Great Lent
-Clean Monday-
For The Year 2003
March 10th beginning of Holy & Great Lent
Holy Pascha-Easter April 27th

Holy Great Lent always begins on a Monday, and a period of forty days of fasting. The faithful now fast from meat and dairy products. Fish is permitted only on the feast of the Annunciation of the Mother of God, and Palm Sunday

Once we have entered Holy Great Lent certain Lenten services are observed during the weekdays: Great Compline, the 9th Hour and Presanctified Liturgy, and Small Compline & The Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos. The Divine Liturgy for the Feast Day of the Annunciation of the Mother of God is celebrated on March 25th.

Great Compline is observed on a parish level during Great Lent on the weeknights, except when the Presanctified Liturgy is held and Small Compline and the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos is celebrated.

Then again the Great Canon of St. Andrew is observed on the Sixth Thursday of Great Lent.

For five Fridays during Great Lent The Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos service is observed. Each Friday during this period for the Akathist Hymn Service, a particular Stanza is served and then on the final fifth Friday All Stanza.

Services for the departed in the Lord, before and during Great Lent are commemorated on certain Saturdays, and a Memorial Service is celebrated at the end of the Divine Liturgy.

For Six Sundays (and certain Saturdays) the Orthodox Church observes commemorations during Holy Great Lent, and thereafter Holy Week, Our Lord’s Holy Resurrection, His Ascension, Holy Pentecost, the day of the Holy Spirit, and concluding with end of the Pentecostarion with the celebration of the Sunday of All Saints.

March 14th First Friday of the Great Fast, Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, First Stanza

March 15th Third Saturday of the Souls

March 16th The First Sunday of Lent, of Orthodoxy

March 21st Second Friday of the Great Fast Akathist Hymn, to the Theotokos (Second Stanza)

March 23rd The Second Sunday of Lent of St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica

March 28th Third Friday of the Great Fast, Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos (Third Stanza)

March 30th The Third Sunday of Lent, of the Veneration of the Holy Cross

April 4th Fourth Friday of the Great Fast, Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, Fourth Stanza

April 6th The Fourth Sunday of Lent of St. John Klimakos

April 11th Fifth Friday of the Great Fast, Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos (All Stanza)

April 12th The Saturday of the Fifth Week The Saturday of the Akathist

April 13th The Fifth Sunday of Lent, of St. Mary of Egypt

April 19th Saturday of St. Lazarus

April 20th Sixth Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday
At this point we enter Holy Week on Palm Sunday evening commemorating Service of the Bridegroom Matins

Holy Week For The Year 2003

April 21st Holy Great Monday
Morning Presanctified Liturgy;
Evening Bridegroom Matins

April 22nd Holy Great Tuesday
Morning Presanctified Liturgy;
Evening Bridegroom Matins

April 23rd Holy Great Wednesday
Morning Presanctified Liturgy;
Evening Holy Unction

April 24th Holy Great Thursday, of the Mystical Supper
Morning Divine Liturgy;
Evening Crucifixion Matins

April 25th Holy Great Friday
Morning Royal Hours;
Afternoon Apokathelosis (Taking down of our Lord from the Cross) Vespers;
Evening Lamentations Matins

April 26th Holy Great Saturday
Morning Vesperal Divine Liturgy;
Midnight Resurrection Matins & Divine Liturgy

April 27th Holy & Great Sunday of Pascha
Agape Vespers

Bright Week & The Pentecostarion
For The Year 2003

The Church now observes Bright Week and the Pentecostarion.
We now break the fast and Bright Week is observed, during this week fast free, all foods allowed. Bright Week also known as Renewal Week.

Monday is observed as the beginning of Bright Week

April 28th Bright Monday
Feast of St. George the Great Martyr (Moved from April 23)

April 29th Bright Tuesday
The Commemoration of Saints Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene and other Newly revealed Martyrs of Lesbos (According to Greek usage)

April 30th Bright Wednesday

May 1st Bright Thursday

May 2nd Bright Friday
Commemoration of the Feast of the Life-giving Spring (According to Greek Usage)

May 3rd Bright Saturday

May 4th Second Sunday Of St. Thomas

May 5th Third Sunday Of the Myrrh-Bearing Women

May 6th Fourth Sunday Of the Paralytic

May 21st Wednesday of Mid-Pentecost

May 25th Fifth Sunday Of the Samaritan Women

June 1st Sixth Sunday Of the Blind Man

June 5th Thursday of the Ascension of our Lord
This Feast Day is always observed. Forty Days after our Lord’s Holy Resurrection. This now ends the cycle of Holy Pascha and Called: Apodosis of Pascha

June 8th Seventh Sunday Of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council

June 14th Saturday of All Souls
Memorial service for the departed in the Lord

June 15th Eighth Sunday Of Holy Pentecost. This service is always observed Fifty Days after our Lord’s Holy Resurrection

June 16th Monday of the Holy Spirit

June 21st The Saturday after Holy Pentecost Of Holy Pentecost: The Apodosis of Holy Pentecost

The End of the Pentecostarion

June 22nd Sunday of All Saints

Glory Be To God For All Things!

Content written/compiled by Father Nektarios Serfes.
(c) Father Nektarios Serfes