Lent in the Eritrean Orthodox Church is a season of reflection, repentance, and building a stronger relationship with God. Though these three aspects are practiced throughout the year, Lent is the season where it is done more intentionally as the whole church. Also, this season is set to reminisce Christ’s journey during His 40 days fast with 15 days added - these extra weeks are known as the Preparation Week and the Holy Week.
Each week is named accordingly to their themes such as:
· Preparation Week: Matthew 6: 1 – 18
· Treasure in Heaven: Luke 11: 1 – 13
· Temptation on the Mount: Matthew 6: 19 – 3
· The Prodigal Son: Luke 6: 27 – 38
· The Samaritan Woman: John 10: 22 – 38
· The Paralytic Man: Luke 15: 11 – 32
· The Man Born Blind: Matthew 21: 28 – 32
· Palm Sunday: John 4: 1 – 42
· Resurrection Sunday: Luke 19: 28 – 48
The Preparation Week
The Preparation week for the Great Lent starts with a reading from John 3:13-21 “for God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved”. The section is read for the purpose of preparing oneself to participate in the upcoming fast through forgiveness of others, tolerance and repentance. That way, we are prepared to become participants of the forty days Our Lord Christ fasted in the desert. This week is technically not part of the forty days but in addition to it, set to prepare people for Lent.
After the Preparation Week is when we start the forty days of Lent, the Lord’s fasting. The reading in this season consists of prayer and blessing from above. Matt 6: 5-21 is read throughout the period to emphasise that fasting should not be in the purpose of exhibiting (as in showing off) to those around us, but as a way to grow the spirit and focus on the blessings that we might receive from God. During this season, we are reminded to repent of our sins and forgive those who have hurt us, and, I believe in doing so this is how we can be perfect like our Heavenly Father, as instructed in Matthew 5:48. Perfection is a word that scares a lot of people (including me!) because most of the time we think it entails living up to the standards of everyone around us. However, the parable of the Prodigal Son emphasises that we have a forgiving God, who loves us even in our mistakes. It is a reminder that God always has open arms, and even as Matthew 18:12 suggests, God looks out for us whenever we wander off. Father Bishoy Kamel, author of the insightful book, “Great Lent and Me” makes an interesting comment on repentance. He highlights that “true repentance means severance of the life of sin, but unfortunately it is a recurring situation. I walk beside the Lord and on the way, I see the light which shows me the stains of my sins, and I keep wiping them, each time the light becomes brighter the stains are magnified.” (Great Lent and Me, 2018, p.91) All in all, what I gather from this season is that life is a process, and that process in itself is the perfection.
The Holy Week
Holy Week is the week when Christ was scourged and crucified for us. These five days, the church is open to everyone to come and worship (though we might see a different approach this year!). We would usually bow/ genuflect multiple times exclaiming a phrase in our traditional Church language, Ge’ez, "Egzio Maharena Iyesus Kristos or Kyrie, Iesou Christe, eleison", which translates into "Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy on us." This ultimately reminds us about the week of salvation, and is a platform for everyone to pray together for the world and for us as individuals.
God bless you!
Written by Yordanos Gebremichael. Yordanos was born and raised in Weki, a little village in Eritrea. She moved to Coventry in the UK in 2013, and is currently the chair of the SCM group at Newman University where she is in her final year of studies in Primary Education.