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Great Lent

Yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos by the Archangel Gabriel. Being one of the Twelve Great Feasts, and a Feast of the Lord, Great Lent (sort of) took a day off yesterday. From the way we ate to the what Scriptures we read and how we celebrated Divine Liturgy, it was all different yesterday, with just a hint of Great Lent.

As we know during Great Lent, what we might call regular liturgies are not celebrated Monday through Friday, EXCEPT for the Feast of Annunciation. Otherwise, only presanctified liturgies are celebrated. Also from Sunday night until Friday afternoon during Great Lent, the Church is clothed in purple and lights are barely lit it on at all, EXCEPT on the Feast of Annunciation, when lights are on bright and the Church is draped in festal colors such as blue or gold. During Great Lent, we only read from the Old Testament books of Genesis, Isaiah and Proverbs, on Monday through Friday, EXCEPT on the Feast of Annunciation when we read from the Gospel of Luke and St Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews. Finally, and I list it last since fasting is often overemphasized, we fast from meat, fish, dairy, wine and oil, if we are fasting the full fast, Monday through Friday of Great Lent, EXCEPT on the Feast of Annunciation when fish, wine and oil are allowed.

Why all the change? Why not just keep doing what we’re doing no matter when the Feast is celebrated? On the contrary, the Feast of St George is moved if April 23 occurs on or before Holy Pascha. Why not treat St George like the Feast of Annunciation, or vice versa? Put simply, the Feast of Annunciation is just that important. As the hymn indicates,

Today marks the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the virgin, and Gabriel proclaims the grace. Wherefore, we also cry out with him, “Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you.

The Feast of Annunciation reflects honors the balancing point between which we are condemned and saved. If Mary had refused, we would still be condemned. Since she freely consented to the invitation of Gabriel, we have been saved by Christ, which is the whole purpose of Great Lent to begin with. Sounds like a good enough reason to change things, don’t you think?

Nonetheless, yesterday was still Great Lent, so we fasted from meat, many churches offered Great Compline services in the evening, and unlike other of the Twelve Great Feasts, the Feast on Annunciation only lasts one day. On the contrary others feasts, like Christmas for instance last as long as two weeks. So for today, we are back to the fullness of Great Lent. I pray you enjoyed a joyous feast yesterday. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Great Lenten Journey.

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