What Is the Triodion Period?
“Lord, I have cried out on to Thee,” … “Let us all make haste to humble the flesh by abstinence, as we set out upon the divine and unblemished Fast…” “I beseech Thee: cleanse me in the waters of repentance, and through prayer and fasting make me radiant…” with these hymns, the Orthodox Church prepare on the eve of the Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday for the journey, a fasting journey towards the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Orthodox Church set sail on this journey on March 7 this year. Believers prepare for it with reverence to achieve one goal, a complete communion with God in body and soul, in word and deed. Fasting, the first commandment of our Lord Jesus, is the second phase of the Triodion period, a time of returning to God.
Fasting: A Time of Pilgrimage and Spiritual Struggle
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East explains that the fasting journey is a pilgrimage of the kingdom helping believers establish a complete communion with God, a real communion, and every violation is adultery, that is, breaking the communion.
Fasting gives us strength to overcome Satan’s deceptions. The Church remembers in its prayers its holy fathers who were role models and in this journey. It calls believers to take a path of prayers, love, repentance, forgiveness, and abstaining from evil passions and lusts, overcoming the obstacles that may come before them on their fasting journey.
Fasting frees believers from the bondage of self-love, which is the greatest sin, through prayer and focusing on God the Creator, avoiding gluttony, empty and selfish pleasures that harms us physically and spiritually.
A Holy Path Towards Resurrection
The Triodion period has a pious character and is manifested in the purification of the self from all evil, “Lord, have mercy on me, for I am a sinner”. Through that time, believers return to themselves and to God to achieve with Christ a new creation through sincere repentance.
The word Triodion: It is a Greek word meaning three odes, that is, three stanzas. Noting that the word ode refers to stanzas of praise or hymns. This period has been called “Triodion” because the Canons or hymns of 9 odes are replaced with the liturgical book with Canons of 3 odes called “The Triodion”. The Triodion begins with the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee and ends on the Holy Saturday, but what are its phases?
The Triodion is be devided into three phases: the Prelenten period, the Great Lent of forty days, and the Holy Week. The Prelenten period includes 4 Sundays: the Publican and Pharisee, the Prodigal Son, the Sunday of Judgement or Meatfare Sunday, and the Sunday of Forgiveness or Cheesefare Sunday. This period includes the Saturday of Souls, which precedes the Sunday of Judgment.
The second phase, the Great Lent, includes 5 Sundays: the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Sunday of Saint Gregory Palamas, the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross, the Sunday of St. John Climacus, the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt. During this period, believers pray the Great Compline from Monday to Thursday, and the Akathist Hymn for the Mother of God each Friday night.
On Friday of the 6th week, the Little Compline with the Canon to the Raising of Lazarus is held. The Canon of St. Andrew the Crete, Canon of Repentance is read in part during Great Compline on the First week of Lent and in whole on Thursday of the 5th week which is called Thursday of Repentance.
Afterwards, comes the third phase or the Holy Week. It starts on the eve of Palm Sunday with the first service of “the Bridegroom” and lasts until the Holy Saturday.
His Beatitude Patriarch John X: Humility is the Garment of the Soul
With the beginning of the fasting journey, Children of the Orthodox Church carry in their hearts the guiding words of their shepherd. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East His Beatitude John X stressed in his message for this year’s fasting on the importance of humility to cross over to safety and the joy of resurrection.
His Beatitude said: “The soul’s garment in this blessed season is humility. A humble prayer penetrates the heart of God. The Church proclaims this at the onset of Her praises for this season in order to suggest to us that Christ, the Bridegroom of every soul, desires the soul to be adorned with the ornament of humility and embellished with the garment of selflessness.
He longs for the soul to be steadfast in praying humbly and modestly, far from ostentation, which is a fake, popular spirituality. Rather, what softens the Lord’s heart is a humble attitude expressed by the soul’s cry: “Have mercy on me.” Christ desires that our souls join the cohort of the wise virgins who lit for Him their lamp of mercy, humility, and almsgiving, preparing their being for His indwelling by the Spirit.”
He added: “Great Lent is the Spring of souls yearning for the radiance of Christ. It is a Spring in which every soul blossoms as flowers do in nature. It is when the bitter coldness of sin is taken over by the warm beauty of the Resurrection. Great Lent is the Spring of souls which have renounced pharisaic pride and put on paschal humility.”
Fasting is a journey of spiritual struggle culminating in prayer, humility, and repentance, and through it, believers set out towards the feast of feasts, saying with a faithful praying heart the lenten prayer of St. Ephrem the Syriac: O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.