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In the first part I gave a brief overview of the services of the Orthodox Church that signal that Great Lent is not far off. But these were still basically “regular” services. In the three weeks and four Sundays before Great Lent, however, we enter into a new phase in the liturgy that carries all the way through Great And Holy Pascha (Easter), a phase that departs from the regular service orders and is called the Triodion (the canons chanted during this time originally had but three odes each, hence the term). In the Orthodox Church, this is the most sacred and special time of year, far exceeding Christmas in its significance, and in the physical and spiritual preparation we undergo.
However, we’re not quite there… yet. There is something of a joke that I heard a priest say. If Lent is a preparation for Pascha, the three weeks beforehand are a preparation for the preparation. There are four rather special services, the first three of which each begin a week of this pre-preparation. First there is the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican, then the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, followed by Sunday of the Last Judgement, and concluding with the Sunday of Forgiveness. As I heard another priest put it: these services are like your mother calling out to you to get inside as it’s getting dark.