By Father Thomas Soroka
On the island of Zakynthos a unique ceremony takes place at the beginning of the Triodion. The book of the Triodion is placed on a stand before the icon of Christ. Before the first hymn from this book is chanted, the volume is presented to the bishop. He venerates it as if it were an icon, followed by all the clergy. Then the book is presented to the chanter who intones the first hymn. The time of the Triodion has begun.
The term Triodion refers to the ten weeks leading up to Pascha as well as to the book which contains the hymns, readings, and prayers proper to this season. Triodion literally means “three odes” and refers to the canons at daily Orthros which contain three rather than the usual nine odes. The Triodion as we have it today was organized by Studite monks in ninth-century Constantinople. They drew chiefly on texts from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem by a number of outstanding hymnographers, including Andrew of Crete, Cosmas of Maiuma and John of Damascus – some twenty composers in all.
In general, the prayers and services of the Triodion may be considered a great catechesis for the faithful, setting forth the entire scope of divine revelation through the reading of several books from the Old Testament and allusions to many others in the Great Canon and other hymns as well as patristic homilies and chants based on still other sacred texts.
This catechesis is not about imparting information but about motivating us to embrace the great task of the season: repentance and the renewal of our life in Christ.