Dear Fr. Chris, what is Clean Week?
The first week of the Great Fast (Lent) is known as “Clean Week”. This week is set aside to begin the Fast with great joy through repentance and forgiveness of sins. Clean Week begins with the Forgiveness Vespers on Sunday evening (Forgiveness/Cheesefare Sunday).
During the Vespers, hymns are sung recounting the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. This is both the beginning of repentance and forgiveness of sins. Unless they were expelled from Paradise, they would have continually lived in sin throughout all eternity. But, God, in His mercy, forbade them from eating of the Tree of Life until they should be cleansed in the Blood of Christ, so they (and we) might have Life Eternal. It is for this reason that we sing the Paschal hymns at the end of the Vespers, during the Rite of Forgiveness.
On Clean Monday, we begin the Liturgical cycle for the week, which includes the Great Compline and Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. This beautiful and repentant hymn truly helps us to prepare for coming home to God in repentance. We should also begin the Fast with joy. In Greece, the faithful go out into the parks and open spaces and fly kites. This is a reminder of the beauty and magnificence of God, revealed in His creation. It is a joyful way to begin the Holy Fast. Find a joyful way for you and your family to begin the fast as well!
The monastic practice during the first days of Clean Week is to eat nothing until we come to the Holy Eucharist during the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Clean Wednesday. However, most of us do not have the strength for such ascetical feats.
Common practice during this week is to clean all aspects of our lives—both physical and spiritual. We should turn off all outside entertainment and spend time cleaning. We should clean our houses, our church, and most importantly our souls.
Take the time this week to clean up. Clean your house thoroughly. Clean your body from all impurities through a strict fast from all meat and dairy. Clean your soul by eliminating all things cluttering it. Turn off the TV, radio, and social media. Read the Scriptures daily. Prepare for Holy Confession by taking inventory of how you are living in Christ. Come to Holy Confession during the week and receive absolution for your sins.
May you all have a blessed and fruitful Clean Week—preparing yourselves for the ascetic and joyful struggle of the rest of the Great Fast!