A Guide for Great Lent






Archdeacon Saed Rihani of St. Mary Orthodox Church in Palos Heights, IL will be with us Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, March 31 for an engaging and inspiring Lenten Retreat Weekend.

ADULT RETREAT – Saturday, March 30 from 9:00 – 1:30 PM – PURSUING HOLINESS: Using our Time, Talents, & Treasures

TEEN SOYO TALK with dinner – Saturday, March 30 from 7:00 – 8:30 PM – UNDERSTANDING OUR WORLD


To register please visit: [Lenten Retreat]





The season of Great Lent is the time of preparation for the feast of the Resurrection of Christ. It is the living symbol of man’s entire life which is to be fulfilled in his own resurrection from the dead with Christ. It is a time of renewed devotion: of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. It is a time of repentance, a real renewal of our minds, hearts and deeds in conformity with Christ and his teachings. It is the time, most of all, of our return to the great commandments of loving God and our neighbors. Click [Here] to read the rest of this article.




Every day of Great Lent, with the exception of Saturdays and Sundays, the prayer “O Lord and Master of my life” is read. According to tradition, this prayer was written in Syria in the fourth century by the ascetic Mar Afrem or, as we have grown accustomed to calling him, Ephraim the Syrian. He was a monk, poet, and theologian, one of the most eminent sons of the Syrian Church, who entered world literature as a remarkable writer. This article continues with an explanation of this pray. Click [Prayer] to continue reading.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, 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 sins and not to judge my brother; for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages, Amen.




During Great Lent, and the other fasts of the Church Year, it is customary for all Orthodox Christians to go to confession to their priest. Properly this should be done several times a year, the exact frequency depending upon how often one is blessed to receive the Holy Mysteries and on the counsel and blessing of one’s spiritual father. As a preparation for this sacramental confession and to help one examine one’s conscience before coming to confession, we are providing the following tools to assist you in your preparation.

Confession the Healing Sacrament: 

A young monk said to the great ascetic Abba Sisoes: “Abba, what should I do? I fell.” The elder answered: “Get up!” The monk said: “I got up and I fell again!” The elder replied: “Get up again!” But the young monk asked: “For how long should I get up when I fall?” “Until your death,” answered Abba Sisoes. —Sayings of the Desert Fathers. To continue reading this article click [Confession].

Preparation for Confession Booklet: 

This booklet contains questions to guide the reader examine his/her conscious before entering into confession. Although the list of questions is not exhaustive, it provides a strong starting point. This booklet also contains a place to write other areas for confession that come to your mind. Click [Booklet].




The Lenten Fast rules that we observe today were established within the monasteries of the Orthodox Church during the sixth through eleventh centuries. These rules are intended for all Orthodox Christians, not just monks and nuns.

The first week of Lent is especially strict. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a total fast is kept. In practice, very few people are able to do this. Some find it necessary to eat a little each day after sunset. Many Faithful do fast completely on Monday and then eat only uncooked food (bread, fruit, nuts) on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the fast is kept until after the Presanctified Liturgy.

From the second through the sixth weeks of Lent, the general rules for fasting are practiced. Meat, animal prod­ucts (cheese, milk, butter, eggs, lard), fish (meaning fish with backbones), olive oil and wine (all alcoholic drinks) are not consumed during the weekdays of Great Lent. Octopus and shell-fish are allowed, as is vegetable oil. On weekends, ol­ive oil and wine are permitted.

According to what was done in the monasteries, one meal a day is eaten on weekdays and two meals on weekends of Great Lent. No restriction is placed on the amount of food during the meal, though moderation is always encouraged in all areas of one’s life at all times.

Fish, oil and wine are allowed on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and on Palm Sunday (one week before Easter). On other feast days, such as the First and Second Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist (February 24), the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9), the Forefeast of the Annunciation (March 24) and the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (March 26), wine and oil are permitted.

For additional information about fasting, visit [fasting].




Click this link to view a blog containing Lenten recipes [Food].





The Great Compline:

7 PM at St. Nicholas


There is no other sacred hymn which compares with this monumental work, which St Andrew wrote for his personal meditations.  Nothing else has its extensive typology and mystical explanations of the scripture, from both the Old and New Testaments.  One can almost consider this hymn to be a “survey of the Old and New Testament”. Its other distinguishing features are a spirit of mournful humility, hope in God, and complex and beautiful Trinitarian Doxologies and hymns to the Theotokos in each Ode.

The canon is a dialog between St. Andrew and his soul. The ongoing theme is an urgent exhortation to change one’s life. St Andrew always  mentions his own sinfulness placed in juxtaposition to God’s mercy, and uses literally hundreds of references to good and bad examples from the OT and NT to “convince himself” to repent. Click [Here] for additional information about this service.

Monday (3/11)

Tuesday (3/13)

Thursday (3/14)

Mondays (3/18, 4/1, 4/8, & 4/15)

Wednesday (4/10) This compline will include the canon of St. Andrew & Life of St. Mary of Egypt

Friday (4/19) This compline will include the canon of Lazarus


The Presanctified Liturgy:

6 PM @ St. Nicholas


The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is an ancient service in the Orthodox Church. It is the solemn Lenten Vespers with the administration of Holy Communion added to it. It comes in the evening after a day of spiritual preparation and total abstinence. There is no consecration of the Eucharistic gifts at the presanctified liturgy. Holy Communion is given from the Eucharistic gifts sanctified on the previous Sunday at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, unless, of course, the feast of the Annunciation should intervene; hence its name of “presanctified”. To read more click [Here].

Wednesday: March 13, 20, 27, April 3, & 17

Thursday: April 11

              A potluck supper will follow each Presanctified Liturgy. Each family participating is encouraged to bring a Lenten potluck item to share. During each potluck at short reflection will be giving. This year’s short reflection focuses on the topic of Prayer.


The Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos:

Fridays @ 7 PM

akathist-hymn-to-the-theotokosThe Akathist Hymn is a profound, devotional poem, which sings the praises of the Holy Mother and Ever-Virgin Mary. It is one of the most beloved services in the Orthodox Church. The word “akathistos” means “not sitting,” i.e., standing; normally all participants stand while it is being prayed. To read the rest of this article, click [Here].

March 15 @ Holy Trinity

March 22 @ St. George

March 29 @ Holy Cross

April 5 @ St. Nicholas

April 12 @ Holy Trinity

Following each Akathist there will be light refreshments and a short reflection. This year’s focus is: “God is Wondrous in His Saints”. Each week one of the clergy will talk about a saint that has been of special inspiration and also share the saints relevance to our lives today.