The current Byzantine Liturgy and the Roman usus antiquior have a point of unity in their respective observances of Pre-Lent.

In Constantinople, in either the sixth or seventh century, a week of Pre-Lent developed gradually, and was commonly called “The Week without Meat”. It is likely that this is in imitation of the Church in Palestine, which calculated Lent in forty days, Monday through Friday, over eight weeks. Byzantines did not need the extra days, since they counted the forty days continuously. So the compromise to the eight weeks of Palestine was to add a week of gradual fasting prior to the Great Fast. Now commonly known as “Cheese-Fare Week”, during this week Byzantines begin fasting from meat but continue to eat cheese and other dairy products right up until “Pure Monday”, the first day of the Fast (two days before the Roman “Ash Wednesday”).

There are four Sundays within Byzantine Pre-Lent. The “Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee” calls us to consider our life, and to repent of our sins for repentance is the door through which we enter the Holy Forty Days Fast. The “Sunday of the Prodigal Son” calls us to “come to ourselves” and return to the Father, who eagerly awaits our return. The “Sunday of the Last Judgment” reminds us that while the Lord’s mercy is immeasurable even He does not forgive those who do not repent. And, finally, on “Forgiveness Sunday” we remember Adam’s expulsion from Paradise and the proper method of fasting (don’t put on a gloomy face).

This time of Pre-Lent is also used to ease us into fasting. The week before the “Prodigal Son” is totally fast free (we eat meat, even on Friday). The following week we fast from meat on Wednesday and Friday (the “Sunday of the Last Judgment” is also known as “Meat-Fare”). During the week just prior to the Fast (“Cheese-Fare Week”) we start our abstinence from meat, but we continue to eat cheese and other dairy products. The full fast from both meat and dairy begins with the first day of Lent.

Terror seizes me when I think of the unquenchable fire,
Of the bitter worm,
the gnashing of teeth,
and soul-destroying hell;
yet I do not turn to You with true compunction.
O Lord! Lord! Before the end strengthen Your fear within me!

-- Matins, Seventh Ode, Sunday of the Last Judgment

Teachings of Christ

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30 ESV)

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

Random Proverb

"One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." (Proverbs 11:24 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Acts of charity, almsgiving and all the external good works do not suppress the arrogance of the heart; but noetic meditation, the labor of repentance, contrition and humility -- these humble the proud mind.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast