Lent or the Great Fast begins on the Monday, seven weeks prior to Easter Sunday. It is regarded as a time for doing penance through the means of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Ukrainian Catholic Church has always considered the doing of penance a necessary condition for salvation.
In the past faithful were required to conduct severe forms of fasting and abstinence during the forty days leading upto Easter Sunday. However, the Church has recognized the continuous change in society and as such has called for different expressions of penance. As such there has been a greater relaxation of the laws of fasting and abstinence but in it’s place a greater attention to prayer, meditations and almsgiving has been made.
Ukrainian Catholics are today obliged to observe Lent in the following manner. On the first day of Lent and on Good Friday, persons between the ages of 14 and 60 are obliged to abstain from all meat and dairy products. Every Friday during Lent is a day of abstinence from meat. Public dancing and other loud secular entertainments are strongly discouraged.
As an expression of penance during Lent, Ukrainian Catholics are required to conduct prostrations (called poklony in Ukrainian). A prostration is an accentuated form of bending the knee – an act of inclining the whole body to the ground. These penitential prostrations are performed as the followingpenitential prayer of St. Ephraem Syrus is sung or recited:
“O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not a spirit of slothfulness, of negligence, of lust of power, of vain babbling. But vouchsafe unto thy servant the spirit of continence, of meekness, of patience and of love. Yea, Lord and King, grant that I may perceive my transgressions and judge not my brother, for You are blessed forever and ever.”
In addition, Ukrainian Catholics during Lent are encouraged to attend the following penitential services:
Weekly service commemorating the deceased members of the parish and individual families.
Veneration of the Cross:
On the 3rd Sunday of Lent, a solemn exposition and veneration of the Cross takes place during Matins or just before the Divine Liturgy. The Cross remains on the Tetrapod for veneration during the whole week. During this period the hymn “We prostrate ourselves before thy Cross, O Lord, and we praise Your holy Resurrection,” is sung accompanied by a profound prostration. This practice reminds us of Christ’s sufferings and encourages us to persevere in our Lenten resolutions and penances.