Today is half-way through the first week of Great Lent. If you are in any way making an effort to keep some sort of fast, attend some of the services, read some of the Scriptures (they are from the Old Testament during Great Lent), pray some of the special prayers, then by now you are also probably suffering from spiritual and physical stress. By now you may be wondering if “all this” might be worth it. Never fear, the Church is here!
Knowing how difficult the Great Fast can be, not only physical but spiritually, the Church reaches out her hand with a special Liturgy. The Liturgy of PreSanctified Gifts, celebrated ONLY during Great Lent, is offered to the faithful for strength and nourishment for our souls and bodies. Since the standard Divine Liturgy is considered too celebratory for Great Lent, each Sunday during Divine Liturgy “extra” Lambs are consecrated to be used during the week. Put another way, the Church prepares Holy Communion in advance, so we can receive strength from God during our Great Lenten Journey.
You may wonder why this is so important. You may wonder why Wednesday instead of Thursday. You may have never wondered at all….but I’m going to tell you anyway! The further you go back in Church history, the fuller a liturgical life you will find. Go back far enough and you will see our ancient brothers and sisters going to Church every day. If you pay close attention during Great Lent, and especially during Holy Week, the extra services aren’t really extra at all, but the daily services of the Church.
The real difference is, we no longer attend services every day unless we are visiting a monastery. During Great Lent, most parishes add some or all of these services back into their calendar to help us in our journey. If you think about it, it makes sense. In the ancient Church, our brothers and sisters were focused daily on remaining faithful to God. The Church services were an important part of the early Christian life, not because they felt compelled to attend Church, but because the secular world was so foreign to the Christian life, they needed to connect to each other every day. Regular Liturgy was a key part of the picture.
So here we are in the 21st Century, making an extra effort during Great Lent to live a spiritual life in a world that is increasingly anti-Christian, so the Church returns to her roots. Need extra help living faithful? (The Church rhetorically asks) We’ll add more services for you to help you. The Church knows from two thousand years of experience of millions of faithful men and women, that living the Christian life in a serious fashion is really hard work. Never fear – the Church is here! See you in Church.