The Great Lent for the Orthodox Church begins today, March 14, 2016. Ash Wednesday is not a feature of the Orthodox Church. However, fasting is marked with abstention from meat, eggs or dairy products. Lent is the beginning of the journey to Pascha (Easter) which is on May 1 in 2016. Since the goal of Lent is Easter and Christ’s resurrection, the hymns will have more of an Easter tone to them rather than the concentration of Christ’s death as is the case in the Western Church.
Whereas the Western Church uses the Gregorian Calendar, the Eastern Church still uses the Julian calendar which has a 13 day difference. Easter needs to fall after the Jewish celebration of the Passover, which this year begins on April 22.
Among the features of the first week of the Great Lent is the daily use of the Penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete developed in the seventh century. The canon is made up of 9 odes interspersed with prayers.
A Helper and a Protector has become salvation to me.
This is my God, Whom I will glorify.
God of my fathers
I will exalt Him for in glory was He glorified.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.
Another feature of Lent is the Prayer of St. Ephraim of Syria
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, 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 transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.