“Kalo Stadio!” is a traditional monastic greeting in Greek as we begin Great Lent. Literally it means “Good stadium!” The hymns of the season tell us that now we are entering “the arena of the virtues” where we will do battle. By their prayers, may we contend well.
Do not turn away thy face from your child, because I am distressed. Please answer my prayer quickly, take care of my soul, and redeem her.
This was my great grandfather’s, Seraphim’s Rose of Blessed Memory favourite Lenten hymn, and they would always see him secretly wipe tears while chanting it.
Saint Luke, Bishop of Simferopol and Crimea, the Blessed Surgeon once literally experienced our Saviour’s turning away of His face from him, when he prayed with tears in front of His icon, doubting and complaining in his heart against the Lord. He had been ‘informed’ in prayer before that his (first) exile would soon been brought to an end, yet the days would pass without any news or change. Why was God’s promise delayed to him? “Suddenly, I saw Christ in the icon, turning away His face from me. Scared, despaired, I dared not look at the icon anymore. ‘With my tail between my legs’ I left the altar and entered the … chapel. …I started reading the Epistles, the first excerpt that came to my eyes. Unfortunately I cannot remember the excerpt, but it wrought an amazing result. I found in it … my impertinence to grumble against God, and my lack of understanding. I was also reassured that I will indeed be freed, impatient that I was. I returned to the altar and saw with joy that Christ was looking again at me with his kind eyes full of Joy and Light. Wasn’t this a miracle?” (Saint Luke, Autobiography, Voyages a Travers la Suffrance).
Likewise, St. Luke’s wife, experienced something similar on the eve of her wedding! “In Chita, I married a nurse who had previously worked in Kiev’s military hospital, and her nick name was ‘Saint’. Two doctors before me had asked her to het married to them, but she had refused, because she had taken an oath of chastity. In accepting to marry me, she broke her vow. The night before the Sacrament of our marriage, in the church that Decembrists [ie. Russian rebels led by Russian army officers in a protest against Nicholas I‘s assumption of the throne] had built, while she was praying in front of Christ’s icon, she suddenly had the impression that the Lord was indeed turning His face away from her, and that His Face kept disappearing from the icon! This was obviously a reminder of her vow. Since she did not keep it, the Lord intended to punish her unsparingly, harshly, by upsetting her with an unbearable, pathological jealousy. (Saint Luke, Ibid)
Arise, O my soul, O my soul, why sleepest thou? The end draweth near, and thou shall be confounded. Arise, therefore, from thy sleep, and Christ our God, who is in all places and filleth all things, shall spare thee.
Saint Romanos the Melodist or the Hymnographer (Greek: Ῥωμανὸς ὁ Μελωδός, often Latinized as Romanus or Anglicized as Roman), was one of the greatest of Greek hymnographers, called “the Pindar of rhythmic poetry”. He flourished during the sixth century, which is considered to be the “Golden Age” of Byzantine hymnography. Of his other Kontakia, one of the most well-known is the hymn, “My soul, my soul, why sleepest thou…” which is chanted as part of the service of the “Great Canon” of St. Andrew of Crete on the first and fifth Thursday of Great Lent.
Lenten Prayer Of St. Ephrem The Syrian
O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.