Following Russian tradition, monastics, faculty, seminarians, and staff began their Lenten purgation with an intensive week saturated with between 9 and 10 hours of church services each day, including Midnight Office, Matins, a Panikhida for all the names submitted to the Monastery for memorials, the four Canonical Hours, Vespers, Typica, and Great Compline with the Canon of St. Andrew, spiritual readings and councils. Clean Week begins with Forgiveness Sunday evening, when the entire community—clergy, monks, and laity—makes full prostrations and offers the kiss of peace to one another, and reaches a crescendo with Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on Wednesday and Friday. Clean Week fosters a highly-concentrated experience of repentance and encourages the struggles necessary to cleanse soul and body from the residue of sin, thereby opening the Orthodox Christian to receive God's forgiveness and to offer forgiveness to others.
Relieved from classroom responsibilities for the week, seminarians focus their efforts on ascetic training and intensive prayer, learning through gentle struggle to free themselves from slavery to the material pleasures and to experience pure spiritual joy. Since trapeza only serves lunch on these days and their access to the Internet is restricted to one hour per day, students learn how little they really need from the world to flourish. Nevertheless, on Wednesday evening between the somber Presanctified Liturgy and the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Dean of Students, Hegumen Cyprian (Alexandrou), offered the students a fellowship / snack time, complete with chocolate almond “milk,” a variety of juices, pita bread with guacamole, almonds, and dried and fresh fruits.
During this break, students shared their perspectives on Clean Week. One first-year student, in particular, admitted that he was initially intimidated by the rigorous schedule. Once he entered into its rhythm, however, he was surprised that, instead of feeling tired, groggy, and grumpy, he felt alert, clear-headed, and light-hearted. That led to a short discussion about how prayer and fasting not only cleanse the soul, but also has salutary physical effects on the body, lightening it from the heaviness of materiality. St. Maximus the Confessor, in fact, called this effect "thinning" the "thick" body.
Successfully passing through the struggle and rigor of Clean Weak, the seminarians develop a good habit of prayer, a renewed love of fasting, and a strengthened and intellectually-directed will. Those are crucial qualities for a prospective priest and reveal the immeasurable benefits of integrating seminary academics with a monastically-inspired liturgical life.