The Theme of Great Lent


St Ephrem the Syrian making a prostration. though I be, may I also hear Thy voice, so greatly desired, that calls Thy saints to joy, and may I attain the ineffable blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven.


Triodion, Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare), Matins Canon, Ode 1

This is the “theme” of Great Lent. It can be found in hundreds of our prayers during this season. It is the great “secret” that the holy and those who struggle for holiness understand. I say it is a “secret”, not because it is concealed, but because only those who struggle understand it. Those who “bebop” through life do not understand, and are even repelled by this kind of brutal honesty about the human condition.

Our good deeds are as filthy rags before the goodness of God. With humility, we courageously tell the truth about ourselves, and, at the same moment, we experience the mercy of God, and hear His voice calling us into His bosom. Prayer that is fully united with the mind of the church feels infinitely unworthy, mournful because of sins, and at the same time, full of hope and gladness.

The more holy a person becomes, the more he feels his unworthiness, because his vision is sharper, and more refined. This vision also sees the mercy of God more clearly, and causes a man to repent deeply, and, because of gratitude, strive with all his power to follow the sweet commandments of God.

Let us strive to feel our sins more fully. If we do this in a healthy way, according to the model of the church’s prayer, we will also more fully feel the mercy of God, and will change.

A great aid to learning this kind of prayer, is to say the prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian, twice a day during weekdays of Great Lent. It is said with prostrations and bows. It is full of repentance, sighing, and hope.

Learn about the Prayer of St Ephrem including directions for how to say it here:  

This prayer is in any complete prayer book, and also Available in a “card” format (4 cards to a page) here:

Here is a talk about the Prayer of St Ephrem:


The Lenten Triodion great aid is to READ the Triodion! It is a treasure trove of wisdom. It is the main service book of the church during Great Lent and Holy Week.

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You may quote from it in whole or part if you specify its origin, author, and URL. Seraphim Holland  

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