Cheese Fare Week
This week received its name because the holy Church, gradually leading believers into the ascetical deeds (podvig) of the holy Lent, with the approach of Cheese Fare Week puts them on the last step of the preparatory abstinence by prohibiting the partaking of meat and permitting the partaking of cheese and eggs, in order to accustom them to avoid pleasant foods and without grief to enter the fast. In popular speech it is called butter week or shrove tide (maslianitsi) week. The holy Church calls it "the light before the journey of abstinence" and "the beginning of tenderness and repentance". Such a meaning of Cheese Fare Week is detailed and explained in its Divine services. Especially the canons and the stichera of these Divine services contain the praise of Lent and the representation of its saving fruits. During this week the Divine services enter into a closer relation with the Divine services of the Holy Forty Day Fast as the time of the latter approaches. Thus, the holy Church, highly honoring the time of the Holy Forty Day Fast as a sacred time for cleansing and immensely important for the Christian, with truly wise foresight and by sequence directs everything to lead us to "the most precious days of the Holy Forty Day Fast", cleansing us beforehand to prepare us for the fast and repentance.
In the sacred hymns for this week the Holy Church as mother appeals to all: "Let us now approach this week of cleansing before the all honorable sacred fast now at hand, illumining bodies and souls"; "Therefore let us hasten to cut off our evil deeds"; "Having come to the bright threshold of the holy fast, let us all with fervent hearts bring hymns of thanksgiving to Christ"; "Behold, all who love God, the door of repentance is already opened: come, let us hasten to enter therein, before Christ closes it, as if we were not worthy of it"; "The threshold to divine repentance is opened: let us fervently enter, purified in our bodies and observing abstinence from food and passions, as obedient servants of Christ, who has called the world into the Kingdom of Heaven"; "As we observe abstinence from meat and other foods, so let us also abstain from hatred of our neighbor, from lust and lies, and from all evil." "As we all stand at the entrance and threshold of the Fast let us all not begin this time of cleansing in a sinful way with self indulgence and drunkenness; but let us enter fervently with purity of heart that we may receive the immortal crowns and the worthy fruits of our labor".
To our deepest regret Cheese Fare Week is changed into a week of excesses in food and revelry in amusements because of our warped human understanding and customs. These earthly customs of ours which have transformed "the bright journey to the fast " and "the beginning of tenderness and repentance" into days of over eating and incontinences, into days of every possible sort of soul destroying worldly amusements and recreation, are directly the opposite of the good intention of the Holy Church and shameful for its true children 1).
The Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian (see below for Wednesday and Friday of Cheese Fare Week)
O Lord and Master of my life. Do not give me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk, but rather give to your servant the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed are you for ages of ages, amen.
As pointed out on page 492 the Divine services during Meat Fare Week also has a relation to those of Cheese Fare Week, except for Wednesday and Friday (the Typicon (Ustav), the Order for the Sunday of the Prodigal Son.). From the evening of Meat Fare Sunday until the Saturday of the Sixth Sunday, "the Octoechos Vespers and Matins Aposticha is dropped and instead we sing the Triodion ideomelon (samoglasen) stichera of the day. If the Meeting of the Lord occurs on a day within Cheese Fare Week we sing the Canon and the Three-ode Canon (tripesnets) for that day either on the day before or the day after at Compline, but we sing the Ideomelon, placed in the Matins Aposticha, on the very feast at the "Praises" after the "Glory".
On Wednesday and Friday of Cheese Fare Week the service is similar to Great Lent, with some necessary differences. At Vespers: ?) After "Now Lettest Thou Thy Servant Depart in Peace" sing the Troparia: "Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos", at the "Glory" "O Baptizer of Christ" and so forth, with prostrations. b) Instead of the Ektenia "Have mercy on us, O God", say, "Lord, have mercy" 40 times. c) After the exclamation of the priest: "Blessed is He That Is", instead of the Many Years, read "O Heavenly King". d) Then do the 16 prostrations with the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian: "O Lord and Master of my Life". e) After the prostrations read the "Trisagion Prayers" "Our Father" "Lord, have mercy, 12 times before the Dismissal. After Vespers immediately do the Grand Compline. But in it after "It is Truly Meet" do the Troparion, usually done at the Little Compline, the Troparion of the day and of the temple, and then: "O God of our Fathers", "As With Fine Purple Linen", at the "Glory" the Kontakion: " With the Saints give Rest", at the "Both Now and Ever" say, "Through the Prayers of all the Saints, O Lord"; except that this Compline ends with the Little Dismissal (and not with the prayer, "O Greatly-merciful Master"). The Midnight Office is done with prostrations. At Matins: ?) Instead of "God is the Lord" and its Troparia we sing in the tone of Octoechos "The Alleluia" 4 times and the Hymns to the Holy Trinity of the tone. b) Besides the Three Ode Canon, assigned for each day of Cheese Fare Week, on Wednesday and Friday of Cheese Fare we sing full canons; in which the hymns are in Three Odes (on Wednesdays the 3rd, 8th, and 9th, and on Fridays the 5th, 8th, and 9th odes), we do not sing the canons of the Octoechos and the Menaion, but we sing only the canon of the Triodion with the Three Odes, thus we completely drop the hymns of the Octoechos, the hymns of the Menaion we sing with other hymns on this very day (for example on Wednesday the 3rd ode of the Menaion is combined with the 1st., the 8th ode is with 6th, etc.). c) After the 9th Ode of the canon we sing the Exapostilarion of the tone of the Hymn to the Trinity. d) After "It is Good", instead of the Ektenia "Have mercy on us, O God", we say "Lord, have mercy", 40 times. e) After the exclamation of the priest "Blessed is He that is", instead of singing "The Most Honorable, Most Autocratic" and so forth, we read: "O Heavenly King, strengthen", and we do the 16 prostrations with the Prayer of St. Ephraim. The Hours are done in the Lenten mode with full prostrations. But during them: a) do not ring the bells, that is, usually there is a ringing of church bells before the Hours, but do not strike the bells separately before each Hour; b) do not sing, but read the Troparion "Hear in the morning" (in 1st hour) and similar Troparia in the other Hours. After the 9th hour immediately we begin the Typika. But they do not begin singing the Beatitudes, as on the days of Great Lent, but with the Typika Psalms "Bless the Lord, O my soul" and "Praise the Lord, O my soul", and then follow with the Beatitudes, quickly (without singing). After the Typika, we do the usual daily Vespers. But in it we must do the a) the Paramoeas, b) after the Ektenia "Have mercy on us, O God", three full prostrations, if there is no feast the next day. We don't do Liturgies on Wednesday and Friday of Cheese Fare Week. But if the Feast of the Meeting or the feast of the temple falls on Wednesday or Friday of Cheese Fare, we perform that service, except that at the end of Vespers, Matins and each of the Hours we do the three full prostrations; therefore although at the end of Vespers we also do three full prostrations, but Vespers is both Little Vespers and Great Vespers. In Matins on Wednesday and Friday if there is no feast day celebration, we do not sing the Great Doxology. If the Meeting falls on Friday (see page 64) we sing the Three Ode Canon for Friday on Wednesday of Cheese Fare Week at Compline. If these days fall on January 30 or February 24, see pages 57 and 95.
Under the 1882 decree of the Holy Synod, the Memorial Liturgy and Panikhida is to be served annually in all parish churches for the Liberator Tsar, Emperor Alexander II who reposed in God on February 19 (see page 88). If February 19 falls on Wednesday or Friday of Cheese Fare Week the following reasoning may govern the performance of the service in this case. The service that is required by the above-stated decree of the Holy Synod, although it is a requiem service, but in character ought to differ in solemnity because it commemorates a great benefaction for the Russian nation, the freeing of the peasants from serfdom. In other words, the February 19 service ought to be equal to the services of major feast days. The service for these days, in the case of such difficulties, is performed, generally speaking, in accordance with the heads of the temples. And according to such instruction of these heads, the service for a Feast of the Temple, if it falls on Wednesday or Friday of Cheese Fare Week, is performed on these very days (Typikon (Ustav) Chapter 28, On Temples), then February 19 also, if it falls on Wednesday or Friday of Cheese Fare Week, it is necessary to perform a full service, that is, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom with all the preparatory services for it. Drawing such a conclusion also authorizes the following circumstance. February 18, 1870, the day of the repose in God of the Emperor Nicholas I, fell on Wednesday of Cheese Fare Week, and the decree ordered the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and a funeral service to be performed on this Wednesday (Nikolsky, Ustav, page 573, example, 1st ed., 1894). So, in view of all that was said, the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is performed on February 19 when it falls on Wednesday or Friday of Cheese Fare Week, only if it does not contravene a special order of the supreme spiritual authority. Other features of the service (after the three full prostrations at the end of Vespers, Matins and each Hour, Paramoeas in the Sixth Hour, etc.) on Wednesday and Friday of Cheese Fare Week if the liturgy is performed see the Typikon (Ustav), Chapter 28, On Temples. (See Podol'skiia Eparch. Ved. (Podolsk Diocesan News), 1897, 5).
On Wednesday evening of Cheese Fare Week we sing the Little Compline, and we sing the Canon of the Menaion in the order for Saturday for the assigned Saint. On Friday at Compline we sing the Canon for the Departed and the Octoechos, in the order of the tone.
On Wednesday and Friday of Cheese Fare Week fasting is authorized and it is permitted to partake cheese, eggs and fish as well during all of Cheese Fare Week in contrast to the Jacobites (Copts), holding to the Monophysite heresy and fasting during Cheese Fare Week in memory of the fast of the Ninevites and the Tetradites, who received this name because they did not observe the fast on Wednesdays (Tetrada, the fourth day of the week) during the whole year, but fasted during Cheese Fare Week.
Really, by that measure as the Holy Church strengthens and ennobles its summoning voice for fasting and repentance, the world, as is known, today multiplies its amusements and entertainments, trying to take hold of the souls and hearts of the worshippers. How many seductions, temptations and dangers to the pure and undefiled heart are hidden under a seductive cover, even the so-called, innocent amusements and entertainments in these prelenten days! How many Christian souls are turned, so to say, in their whirlwind up to self-oblivion! What darkness and gloom covers souls, betrayed by passionate, seduced hearts or to unrestrained inclinations of the flesh! How many people for whom it will be necessary to wail many and bitter tears over a few hours of immediate fun and ecstasy of feelings! Can the most cautious be praised if they regret nothing and repent nothing, if they lost none of the beneficial gifts of a pure and undefiled heart, if none have suffered in the calmness of his conscience? "Cheese Fare Week", teaches St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, "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?" "She ordains to revere these days more, but they commit more excesses; she commands to abstain, and they betray less control; she makes rules to cleanse body and soul, and they defile them more; she orders to lament committed sins, and they add more iniquities; she inspires God to be merciful, and they all the more anger the Most High God; she appoints a fast, and they overeat and revel more; she offers repentance, and they become more violent. A worthy voice of pity and weeping: "Sons are born and raised up, for you reject me! Listen, O heaven and inspire, O earth"! Children have turned away from their mother, Christians do not listen to the holy Church, those who renounced Satan and all his works are again converted to the works of an evil spirit, a lamentable and altogether terrible work! And whoever does not listen to the Church, is not the son of Church; whoever is not the son of the Church, Christ is not his shepherd; whoever Christ is not the shepherd, is not the sheep of Christ; whoever is not the sheep of Christ, vainly expects eternal life. Such are the results of a licentious celebration of Cheese Fare Week. The very celebration of butter week (maslianitsi) in the aforesaid manner is pagan work. The Pagan false god (the inventor of intoxicated drink) to whom they have established a special annual feast (so called Bacchanalia) was and spent these festivals in every dissolute abomination. Look, do not Christians also do the same in observing butter week (maslianitsi), and is the same for many of these festivals? I do not have to show it to you: see it in the light of the midday. And once again I will say, that whoever spends butter week (maslianitsi) in excesses, it becomes obvious that he is disobedient to the Church and shows himself unworthy of the name of Christian". "In order to spend Cheese Fare Week according to the Christian obligation, it is needful to act according to how the Holy Church commands during this time, namely: to drop every indecent care and to drop evil customs, remembering the Last Judgment and our ancestral Fall".
S. V. Bulgakov, Handbook for Church Servers, 2nd ed., 1274 pp. (Kharkov, 1900) pp 0494-6
Translated by Archpriest Eugene D. Tarris © February 5, 2003. All rights reserved.
Posted with Permission from the Translator
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