As many of you may or may not know, this is my first time experiencing lent. After liturgy last Sunday, our priest mentioned off-handedly that services next week (the first week of lent) would be "challenging". Of course, I thought he meant that services would be longer than usual, perhaps 2 to 3 hours. I thought, "Ya, I can probably handle that, no problem". Little did I expect to find myself completely sore from nearly head to toe after attending my first lenten service last night!
The service was the Great Compline and Great Canon, combined. It only lasted for about an hour and a half, but during that time we probably did nearly 100 prostrations, and around 50 metanoia's. When we first came into the room, I found it to be unusually cold. Little did I realize that the reason for that was to prevent us from sweating! I literally was breathing hard after the first "round", and found myself being uncharacteristically silent during the chanting, no doubt so I could catch my breath for the next round.
Fortunately as I went on, I seemed to refine my technique for the prostrations so that I expended less energy doing them (at first, I would take a knee, and then the other, and get up in the same fashion). After observing the older woman in front of me (who was no doubt nearly twice my age) effortlessly springing up and down from the floor like a jack-rabbit, I decided to mimic her technique, and I am very thankful that she taught me this (unbeknownst to her), as she very well may have saved my life!
Nevertheless, I woke up today, feeling like I had just gone to the gym the day before and performed an hour's worth of bench pressing and squats. I guess the morale of the story here is, never underestimate an Orthodox priest's warning, especially during lent!