The first week of Great Lent is generally known as clean week, it is a chance for each of us to start anew; with a clean slate so to speak. In this we are given the opportunity to “clean ourselves” by dedicating our consciences, homes, and habits to Christ through prayer, work, fasting, humility, and confession. It starts on the Sunday by asking each others forgiveness, and likewise forgive those who ask us. It continues on Monday and throughout the week, and ultimately to Pascha.
The readings for Monday speak of a dedication, and new beginnings as we start the fast. “…Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land…” (Is. 1:16-19, read at the 6th hour) and “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” (Gen. 1:1 read at Vespers).
Clean week helps us form those habits which reveal not our will but the “Lords will” manifested in mercy love and forgiveness. It is the “Lord’s will” that contrasted with our own will that is highlighted in the the services of clean week, specifically in the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. This service is a dialog between St. Andrew and his soul (and by extension our own souls). We are exhorted to choose the “Lord’s will” as exemplified through the righteous men and women of scripture, contrasted with our own will and sinfulness witnessed in the faithlessness of those charterers in scripture that rejected the Lord’s love.
St. Andrew’s service, offers us a chance to “Imitate the God-loving deeds of the righteous and shun the sins of the wicked” (Tuesday: Ode 8), so that proclamation of “Christ is Risen” with is made with clean hearts and consciences that recognize that it is the Lord’s will, not our will that brings a peace and joy that not even death can take away.