19 February 2011

Lenten Triodion: The Pre-Lenten Season

In the Roman Rite (pre-1970 form), and in similar Anglican and Lutheran uses, a pre-Lenten season lasts from Septuagesima Sunday until Shrove Tuesday and has thus also been known as Shrovetide. The form of the Roman Rite that includes this special period of 17 days refers to it as the season of Septuagesima. The liturgy of the period is characterized by violet vestments (except on feasts), the omission of the Alleluia before the Gospel, and a more penitential mood. Fasting does not commence until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

The earliest the Pre-Lenten season can begin is January 18 and the latest it can end is March 9.
The new liturgical books created after the Second Vatican Council omit Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays. In these, the period encompassing them became part of Ordinary Time, and because of this, the use of violet vestments and omission of "Alleluia" in the liturgy do not start until Ash Wednesday. The traditional liturgical books, such as the Missal of John XXIII and the Roman Breviary, however, continue to include the Septuagesima season.

Most provinces of the Anglican Communion adapted the same modern change. In the Church of England these Sundays retain their original designations where the Prayer Book Calendar is followed, but in the Common Worship Calendar they have been subsumed into a pre-Lent season of variable length, with anything from zero to five "Sundays before Lent" depending on the date of Easter. Churches in the Continuing Anglican movement that use the traditional Book of Common Prayer (or the various missals based upon it) also observe Septuagesima. Many Lutherans still celebrate this season.

A version of the season still does exist in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic liturgical calendar, and is known as Triódion (although it is only 15 days long and not 17 since the Eastern Orthodox Lent commences on a Monday instead of a Wednesday).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the pre-Lenten season lasts three weeks, beginning on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee and continuing through the Sunday of Forgiveness (the day before the beginning of Great Lent). Since the liturgical day begins at sunset, and Great Lent begins on a Monday, the point at which Great Lent begins is at Vespers on the night of the Sunday of Forgiveness, with a "Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness" (in some monasteries, this ceremony is performed at Compline instead of Vespers). Thus begins the first day of the Great Fast, which is known as Clean Monday. The weeks of pre-Lent and Great Lent are anticipatory by nature; they begin on Monday and end on Sunday, each week being named for the theme of the upcoming Sunday. The hymns used during the Pre-Lenten and Lenten seasons are taken from a book called
the Triodion.

The weeks of the Pre-Lenten Season break are:
  1. Zacchaeus Sunday (Slavic tradition) is sometimes regarded as a pre-Lenten Sunday because of its place in the Slavic lectionary. In that tradition, it is the 11th Sunday before Pascha (Easter). There are no hymns proper to this Sunday, however; its only distinguishing feature is the reading of the Gospel concerning Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). This lectionary reading is sometimes also appointed on the same Sunday in the Byzantine ("Greek") lectionary, as well. The week following this Sunday is a normal, non-Lenten time, since it falls outside the Triodion.
  2. The Publican and the Pharisee: 10th Sunday before Pascha (70 days). The week following this Sunday is a fast-free week, lest the faithful be tempted, like the Pharisee to boast about fasting.
  3. The Prodigal Son: 9th Sunday before Pascha (63 days). The week following this Sunday is the last during which the laity may eat meat or meat products.
  4. The Last Judgment or Meat-Fare Sunday (the last day meat may be eaten): 8th Sunday before Pascha (56 days). The week following this Sunday is called Cheese-Fare Week and is a fast-free week, with the exception that meat and meat products are forbidden.
  5. Sunday of Forgiveness or Cheese-Fare Sunday: 7th Sunday before Pascha (49 days). This Sunday is the last day dairy products may be consumed. Throughout Great Lent, fish, wine, and olive oil will be allowed only on certain days.

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