Cheesefare Week

Cheesefare week, the last full week before Great Lent begins, is an “in between” week liturgically in the Orthodox Church. Each day is “kind of like” Great Lent and “kind of like” outside of Great Lent. This is to provide a transition into Great Lent. Everything we do is better if we are prepared and in the proper state of mind. This week, if we read the readings and attend the services, gets us ready for Great Lent.

How is the week “kind of like” being in Great Lent?

  • We fast all week, but in the most unique way of the entire year, fasting from meat only, with all other foods being allowed. We are fasting every day, but only “partially” and we even eat cheese and other milk products on days we normally would not throughout the year, such as Wednesday and Friday.
  • We are using the Triodion in Vespers and Matins at all services, and its content definitely is Lenten in tone.
  • On Wednesday and Friday, we do not celebrate the Divine Liturgy, just as in Great Lent we do not celebrate it on most weekdays. The readings on Wednesday and Friday are of a Lenten character; we do not read the usual Epistle and Gospel, but instead read from the Old Testament (on Wednesday, all the selections are from Joel, and on Friday, from Zechariah). We follow the Lenten format of having a reading during the Sixth Hour and Vespers.
  • Daily Vespers on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday begin in a “non-Lenten” way just as during the rest of the year, but the end of Vespers is ”Lenten” with the usual prayers with bows after the Aposticha, and the prayer of St Ephrem.
  • Wednesday and Friday Vespers are Lenten in tone, with an Old Testament Reading, and the prayer of St Ephrem, but the ending is non-Lenten in tone.  
  • The quintessential prayer of Great Lent, the “Prayer of St Ephrem”, is said at every weekday Vespers beginning on Tuesday evening.  

How is the week “kind of like” being outside of Great Lent?

  • Sunday and Monday evening Vespers are just like in “regular time”, but there are selections from the Triodion for Vespers and Matins, which definitely point us toward Great Lent.
  • All days except Wednesday and Friday we can serve Divine Liturgy, with its usual Epistle and Gospel readings.
  • As noted above, we are “kind of” fasting, and “kind of” not fasting.

Another aspect of the week that makes it seem more “Lenten” is the content of the Gospel readings. They are all concerning the day of the Lord’s passion. We will return to these readings during Holy week. I always think of the weeks preceding Great Lent, and especially the last two weeks, as a foreboding of Holy Week and Pascha.

If you want to be ready for Great Lent, follow the fasting rules for this week (cheese pizza is allowed on Wednesday and Friday!) and attend the “kind of”  Lenten Vespers on Wednesday night.

From the Lenten Triodion – Tuesday of Cheesefare week

People, receive Lent with gladness!

The beginning of spiritual warfare arrives!

Forsake the indulgence of your flesh, that the gifts of the spirit may be increased in you!

Embrace your share of suffering, soldiers of Christ!

Prove yourselves to be children of God!

The Holy Spirit will take up his abode in you, // and your souls will be filled with his light!

Faithful, let us receive with joy the divinely-inspired announcements of lent!

Like Ninevites of old, like harlots and publicans who heard John preaching repentance,

let us prepare ourselves through fasting for the master’s communion in zion!

Let us wash ourselves with tears of purification; Let us pray to behold the fulfillment of pascha, the true revelation!

Let us prepare ourselves to adore the cross and resurrection of Christ our God!//

do not deprive us of our expectation, Lover of mankind!

See also
How To Spend Cheesefare Week How To Spend Cheesefare Week
St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
How To Spend Cheesefare Week How To Spend Cheesefare Week
St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
Cheese Fare Week is the threshold and the beginning of the fast. That is why for the true children of the Church it is necessary to act all the more temperate in Cheese Fare Week than in the previous days, although they should always do so. However, will the Christian listen to the sweet odes of his loving mother?
Why Only No Meat During Cheesefare Week? Why Only No Meat During Cheesefare Week?
Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos
Why Only No Meat During Cheesefare Week? Why Only No Meat During Cheesefare Week?
Elder Epiphanios (Theodoropoulos)
Cheesefare Sunday received it's name because the previous week we did not eat meat, but only dairy products, such as milk, cheese, etc., as well as eggs and fish.Many find this rule of the Church to be "unreasonable", saying: "How is milk of a lamb allowed but not the meat of the lamb, since milk is produced by the lamb? How are eggs allowed and not chicken, since the first are produced by the second?"
A Lenten Primer A Lenten Primer
Fr. Evan Armatas, John Maddox
A Lenten Primer A Lenten Primer
Fr. Evan Armatas, John Maddox
How did the Church arrive at such a season and structure of services? And whether you've been through Lent before or this is going to be your first season, you will see that this is a rather complicated season; there is a lot going on, a number of services you haven't seen. There are new names and phrases for things. Certain spiritual disciplines are highlighted that you may not be aware of, or at least you don't typically them see during the rest of the season.
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Alexander Schmemann
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Alexander Schmemann
In the Orthodox Church, the last Sunday before Great Lent – the day on which, at Vespers, Lent is liturgically announced and inaugurated – is called Forgiveness Sunday. On the morning of that Sunday, at the Divine Liturgy, we hear the words of Christ: "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses..." (Mark 6:14-15)
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Victor Potapov
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Victor Potapov
Forgiveness Sunday is a day a day of strict self-examination, a day on which we examine the extent our spiritual maturity: are we capable of following after Christ, of obeying all of His directions? Many of us know well from personal experience that it is far easier to forgive than to ask forgiveness of one whom we have somehow offended, for our pride interferes with our admitting guilt. The Church constantly teaches that it is only through repentance, spiritual struggle, and efforts toward great abstinence that what had been lost through sin may be sought, found and restored.
Sermon on Forgiveness Sunday Sermon on Forgiveness Sunday
Igumen Zacchaeus (Wood)
Sermon on Forgiveness Sunday Sermon on Forgiveness Sunday
Igumen Zacchaeus (Wood)
Of course much can be, and indeed has been said about each preparatory Sunday—from the desire of Zacchaeus to the humble prayer of the publican to the repentance of the prodigal son, and finally with the clear teaching of the Lord as to what we need to do to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Today's theme, however is more frightening—the expulsion of Adam from Paradise.
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