GOARCH - February 20, 1998

Orthodox Christians Begin Great Lent on Monday March 2
Worldwide Celebrations to Mark "Triumph of Orthodoxy" March 8

New York, NY - Some 300 million Orthodox Christians of Greek, Russian, Romanian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Russian, Albanian, Serbian and Ukrainian jurisdictions will celebrate the "Triumph of Orthodoxy" on the first Sunday of the Great Lent March 8th, to commemorate the restoration of Holy Icons to the Church in the Ninth Century.

Archbishop Spyridon, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Chairman of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) will celebrate the Archierarchal Liturgy on the Sunday of Orthodoxy with fellow SCOBA hierarchs at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (319 East 74th St.) beginning at 10:00 a.m. Similar Pan-Orthodox services will be conducted throughout the world on that day.

Orthodox Christians will begin observing the Great Lent on Monday, March 2nd, in preparation for Easter, the most sacred and holy day of the Orthodox Church's ecclesiastical calendar, which will be observed this year on April 19th.

The Orthodox date for Easter is based on a decree of the Council of Nicaea, Asia Minor, held in 325 A.D. under Emperor Constantine the Great. According to this decree, Easter must be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox but always after the Hebrew Passover to maintain the Biblical sequence of events of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The Orthodox Christian churches have adhered strictly to this formula, but the Easter of other Christian churches is not necessarily preceded by the Passover.

The Eastern Orthodox Lent always begins on Monday, which is designated as "Clean Monday" or literally translated, the "Monday of cleansing or purification". The day when Orthodox faithful begin a spiritual and moral purification through fasting, prayer, meditations, repentance, attending Lenten religious services and partaking of the Sacraments of Confession and Communion.

His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon in his Lenten encyclical to the Orthodox faithful says: "With Great Lent, the Church teaches us that it is necessary for all of us to become ascetics by means of fasting and prayer, so that we may acquire the two most powerful weapons: continence and piety, in order to effectively and victoriously proclaim the arena of struggles in this life."

Religious services during the Lenten period are particularly beautiful, spiritual and mystical: the Compline every evening, the Divine Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts every Wednesday and Friday, the Salutations to the Virgin Mary including poetic verses of the Akathist Hymn sung during the first five Friday evenings of the Lent, and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great every Sunday during Lent.

Sunday of Orthodoxy

The historical significance of the Sunday of Orthodoxy dates back to 730 A.D. when the Byzantine Emperor Leo III published an edict forbidding the use of icons and ordered their removal from the Churches. This started a bitter controversy involving traditional life and teaching of the Church. In the year 787 A.D. the Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicaea upheld the veneration of icons as a means of salvation through prayer, emphasizing the veneration was directed to the sacred persons or events depicted and not the icons themselves.

In 843 A.D., when the veneration of icons was solemnly proclaimed at St.Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople, monks and clergy came in procession and restored the icons to their rightful place. The day was called the "Triumph of Orthodoxy" and since that time this event is commemorated on the First Sunday of Lent. The Sunday of Orthodoxy is traditionally celebrated with special services chanted in many languages of the Church as an act of rededication to Orthodoxy. This service also commemorates the suffering, martyrdom and persecution of Orthodox faithful down through the centuries.

The Divine Liturgy at the Archdiocesan Cathedral will be followed by the Procession of Icons with the clergy and the Order of St. Andrew, distinguished laymen of the Greek Orthodox Church who have been granted the title of Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Following the procession, His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon will officiate at a Ceremony of Investiture for several Greek Orthodox laymen from throughout the United States as new Archons of the Great Church of Christ, committed to uphold and defend the rights of the Patriarchate which has endured a long history of harassment in Turkey.

Archdiocesan Council

The Sunday of Orthodoxy weekend in New York City will begin on Friday, March 6th with a meeting of the Archdiocesan Council at Holy Trinity Cathedral. In the evening, Archbishop Spyridon will preside at the service of the First Stanza of Salutations to the Virgin Mary at 6:00 p.m. at the Cathedral.

On Saturday, March 7th, the Archdiocesan Council and National Philoptochos Board will continue their deliberations and the annual meeting of the Order of St. Andrew will be convened at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, beginning at 12:30 p.m. In the evening the Order will host a dinner at the Waldorf Astoria and will present the Athenagoras Human Rights Award to Nana Mouskouri. World renowned singer and compassionate individual who has dedicated herself to children as UNICEF Ambassador and Europarliamentarian.

  February 20, 1998 ]