My greetings to you once again in this final pre-Lenten week. On Sunday the Orthodox Church will celebrate the rite of mutual forgiveness, which is for us the threshold of Great Lent itself - which begins properly on Monday morning. We will enter into the Fast as a community, eager to discover true repentance and arrive with joy at our Lord's holy Pascha.
The week ahead - the first week of Great Lent - is very important, not just to all Orthodox Christians generally, but to our school and our community life. At St John's the full entry into the services of this week are an essential part of our academic program and our mission, both to our students and ourselves as staff, as we seek to raise God's children into the full worshipping life of His Church.
This means that next week's school program is quite different, and that eager cooperation is required of us all to ensure that each and every one of our students participates in the important services of First Week, as well as the life and lessons of the school week.
EXPECTATIONS DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF GREAT LENT:
While all of you as parents know that I do not like to speak, with reference to student and family participation in the Divine Services, in terms of 'obligations' or 'requirements', occasionally it is necessary and appropriate: and it is important to note that as an Orthodox school the following expectations are indeed requirements of all students, and an essential part of their program (and grades) at St. John's. Attendance will be taken both in class and at services during this First Week, so please ensure that your students are on time to all services.
Once again, it is a requirement of enrollment at St. John's that every student be present at each of the services described above for next week. If for any reason you fear that your child may be absent for a service, it is critical that you contact me in advance, this week, to discuss this; but please do bear in mind that, given the absolutely essential nature of these services to the Orthodox life and our program at the school, only medical emergencies will normally be considered for absence!
As we all know in the Orthodox world, the first week of Great Lent is long, tiring, and challenging -- but it is also a wonderful, incomparable week of true Orthodox spirituality, repentance and beauty. I trust that each of you will join with all of us on the St. John's Academy staff, and rise up to these spiritual and practical challenges in the week ahead. May our Lord bless our fruitful beginning to the Great Fast!
INXC, Hieromonk Irenei