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Great Lent

The Syriac Orthodox Church observes the Great Lent during the 48 days prior to Easter. The date of Easter is set according to the Julian calendar in the Middle East and Diaspora; the Church in Malankara, however, has followed the Gregorian Calendar since 1953. For those who are unable to fast for the 48 days, the Church permits observing the Great Lent during the first week and week of this period and all Wednesdays and Fridays in between. During Lent, the faithful are to refrain from all animal products (meat and dairy products).

Excerpts from the Lent Evening Service

Psalm 4

The worshiper recites Psalm 4.

Madrosho (Doctrinal Hymn)


Open, O Lord, unto me Thy door which is full of mercies,
As Thou didst open it unto the adulteress woman.
Accept from me the tears which I am offering,
And grant me the forgiveness of sins.
I have taken Thee, O Water of Life, on my journey,
So that I do not ask for water from Abraham;
For I have heard of story of the rich man,
Who asked for water on the tip of his [i.e., Lazarus] finger.

Note: The second line is a reference to the adulteress woman in John 8:1-11, a theme throughout Lent (see next hymn as well). The last three lines are a reference to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

Hymn of Repentance


Towards the sea of Thy mercies I gaze, O only begotten God;
My offenses are numerous, and my faults have become strong.
Sprinkle me with Thy cleansing hyssop,
And wash me with the tears of my own eyes.
I beseech Thee, O Lord, by the love of Him who begot Thee:
Let not the spiteful mock me, but the angles rejoice
Over one sinner who repents of his wickedness.
And let them say: blessed is the Lord,
Whose gate is open to those who repent -
Halleluia - during night and day.

Lovely was the voice of the sinful woman,
When she said to the seller of perfumes:
"Give me oil and take gold in payment;
Give me the best oil, that I may mix it with the tears of my eyes,
And go to anoint the first-born of the Most High.
I trust in God that by this oil, which I have purchased from you,
My sins and offenses will be forgiven."
When she took the oil and went, our Lord saw her faith -
Halleluia - and forgave her all her sins.

Note: The second stanza above is based on the story of theadulteress woman (Luke 7: 36-50). The figure of the seller of perfumes is absent in the biblical story, but is popular in the Syriac tradition, appearing in liturgical and poetic works.

Bocootho (Petition) of St. Jacob


Refrain: We call upon Thee, O Lord - our Lord; come to our help.
Hear our petition and have mercy upon our souls.

O Lord - our Lord, Lord of the watchers [i.e., guardian angels] and the angels.
Hear our petition and have mercy upon our souls.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, enlighten my mind.
I have knocked upon your door with faith; answer me with your compassion.

Note: There is a play on words in the last stanza which is hard to capture in the English translation."Mind" in the first line is tarceetho in Syriac, while "door" in the second lineis tarco. Such plays on words are popular in Syriac literature.

Bocootho (Petition) of St. Ephrem


Refrain: Our Lord have mercy upon us; our Lord accept our service.
Send us compassion, mercy and forgiveness from your treasure house.

Grant me, O Lord, that I stand in front of you watchfully when I keep vigil.
And if I slumber, let not my sleep become a sin.

If I commit wrong when I am awake, I shall be forgiven by your grace.
If I commit sin by mere slumber, let your compassion be the forgiver of sins.

Psalm 91


The worshiper is then to recite Psalm 91.

The audio clip gives a traditional chant. The deacon chants half a verse from the Psalm. The Choir completes the verse starting with a Halleluia and following the verse with a reply.

Deacon: You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
Choir: Halleluia - who abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91.1)
Reply: I sat in your shadow, O Tree of Life
and I have eaten life from your fruits for ever.

Deacon: will say to the Lord, "My refuge
Choir: Halleluia - and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust." (Psalm 91:2)
Reply: Our fortress is high and our strength is powerful: You are our God, our Hope and our Trust.

Deacon: For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
Choir: Halleluia - and from the deadly pestilence. (Psalm 91:3)
Reply: Deliver us, our Lord, from all the snares of the Evil One, the crafty, who thirsts to break us.


Ma`de`dono: The Book of the Church Festivals (1984).

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Last Update: February 19, 1998