The 40 day observance preceding the celebration of Pascha (“Easter” in the Christian West) is marked by an increased emphasis on prayer in the lives of the individual faithful; by an extended schedule of services at the parish churches; by greater attention to good work and almsgiving; as well as the commonly known abstinence from particular foods, especially meat.
The most important of the Church’s Lenten seasons, the Great Lent is introduced through a series of commemorations which prepare the parishioner for the rigors of the 40 days. Although much is given up, the emphasis is primarily positive: the spiritual athlete gets in shape by deepening his or her spirituality, praying for the departed, getting involved in good works, and recognizing those areas of strength and weakness within him or herself.
The theme of forgiveness of sins, those we have committed, and those committed against us, is announced at the Service which begins Great Lent: Forgiveness Vespers, celebrated on Sunday afternoon of Cheesefare, by Byzantine Greek Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Quite naturally, this season is often described as “The Season of Alleluia” in the Byzantine Christian Tradition, because of the greater frequency of sung Alleluias in the divine services: although we are fasting, we do so as a people who know the Resurrection!