This day, along with Palm Sunday, occupies a special position between Lent and Holy Week. Following the forty days of penitence which have just ended, and immediately before the days of darkness and mourning which are to follow in the week of the Passion, there come two days of joy and triumph on which the Church keeps festival. The Saturday before Palm Sunday celebrates the raising of Lazarus at Bethany (John 11:1-46). This miracle is performed by Christ as a reassurance to His disciples before the coming Passion: they are to understand that, though He suffers and dies, y
During the services of [the sixth] week, and to a still greater extent during Holy Week, the Triodion assumes the character of a historical narrative. Day by day we accompany Christ: we are with Him as He draws near to Jerusalem, as He reaches Bethany to raise Lazarus, as He enters the Holy City on Palm Sunday, as He approaches His Passion. The daily offices are marked by
Fasting sends our prayer to heaven, giving it as if wings.
—St. Basil the Great
“I have humbled my soul with fasting”, says David the Psalmist. The goal of every Christian is to prepare his soul for eternity, for life with the Lord; because we should be trying to humble our souls, to calm the passions, but the passions can only be extinguished with fasting and prayer. Humility is the most important element for the salvation of the soul. Everything else—ascetic labors, fasting, prayer, prostrations—these are the means, the way by which the soul approaches humility.
The first week of the Holy Forty Days of Lent , in the words of our pious ancestors and all Orthodox Christians, is called the dawn of abstinence, the week of purity. This week the Church convinces its children to come out of that sinful state into which the whole human race fell and lost paradise through our first parents’ lack of restraint, and which each of us only increases through our own sins; to come out by the path of faith, prayer, humility, and God-pleasing fasting.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.