This explanation of Great Lent is written for all those – and they are many today – who desire a better understanding of the liturgical tradition of the Church and a more conscious participation in her life.
Repentance, we are told, is the beginning and the condition of a truly Christian life. Christ’s first word when He began to preach was: “Repent!” (Matt. 4:17). But what is repentance? In the rush of our daily life, we have no time to think about it, and we simply assume that all we have to do during Lent is abstain from certain foods, cut down on “entertainment,” go to confession, be absolved by the priest, receive (one in the whole year!) Holy Communion, and then consider ourselves perfectly “in order” till next year. There must be a reason, however, why the Church has set apart seven weeks as a special time for repentance and why she calls us to a long and sustained spiritual effort. All this certainly must concern me, my faith, my life, my membership in the Church. Is it not then my first duty to try to understand the teaching of my Church about Lent, to try to be an Orthodox Christian not only in name, but in life itself?
To the questions: What is repentance? Why do we need it? How are we to practice it? – Great Lent gives the answer. It is indeed a school of repentance to which every Christian must go every year in order to deepen his faith, to re-evaluate, and if possible, to change his/her life. It is a wonderful pilgrimage to the very sources of Orthodox faith—a rediscovery of the Orthodox way of life.
It is through the forms and the spirit of her Lenten worship that the Church conveys to us the meanings of this unique season. This brief explanation of Lent, therefore, is based mainly, although not exclusively, on Lenten services. It is my hope that the reader may discover for himself/herself that in this world nothing is as beautiful and deep, as inspired and inspiring, as that which the Church, our Mother, reveals and freely gives to us once we enter the blessed season of the “Lenten Spring.”
Foreword by Father Alexander Schmemann from his book, “Great Lent”