Lent signifies not winter but spring, not darkness but light, not death but renewed vitality. Certainly it has its sombre aspect, with the repeated prostrations at the weekday services, with the dark vestments of the priest, with the hymns sung to a subdued chant, full of compunction. In the Christian Empire of Byzantium theatres were closed and public spectacles forbidden during Lent; and even today weddings are forbidden in the seven weeks of the fast. Yet these elements of austerity should not blind us to the fact that the fast is not a burden, not a punishment, but a gift of God’s grace:

Come, O ye people, and today let us accept
The grace of the Fast as a gift from God. [Mattins for Monday in the first week]

Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, “The Meaning of the Great Fast” in Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, The Lenten Triodion (Faber & Faber, 1978), 23.

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