What Is Clean Monday?

The First Day of Great Lent for Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox

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For Western Christians, especially Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and members of the Anglican Communion, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. For Catholics in the Eastern Rites, however, Lent has already begun by the time that Ash Wednesday comes around.

What Is Clean Monday?

Clean Monday is the first day of Great Lent, as Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox refer to the Lenten season. For both Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, Clean Monday falls on the Monday of the seventh week before Easter Sunday; for Eastern Catholics, that places Clean Monday two days before Western Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday.

When Is Clean Monday for Eastern Catholics?

Therefore, in order to calculate the date of Clean Monday for Eastern Catholics in any given year, you simply take the date of Ash Wednesday in that year and subtract two days. (See When Is Ash Wednesday? for the date of Ash Wednesday in this and future years.)

Do Eastern Orthodox Celebrate Clean Monday on the Same Day?

The date on which Eastern Orthodox celebrate Clean Monday is usually different from that on which Eastern Catholics celebrate it. That's because the date of Clean Monday depends on the date of Easter, and the Eastern Orthodox figure the date of Easter using the Julian calendar. (For more details on the discrepancy between the Western and Eastern dates for Easter, see How Is the Date of Easter Calculated?) In years when Easter falls on the same day for both Western Christians and Eastern Orthodox (such as 2017), Clean Monday falls on the same day as well.

When Is Clean Monday for Eastern Orthodox?

To calculate the date of Clean Monday for Eastern Orthodox, start with the date of Eastern Orthodox Easter (see Greek Orthodox Easter Dates) and count backward seven weeks. Eastern Orthodox Clean Monday is the Monday of that week.

Why Is Clean Monday Sometimes Called Ash Monday?

Clean Monday is sometimes referred to as Ash Monday, especially among Maronite Catholics, an Eastern Catholic rite rooted in Lebanon.

Over the years, the Maronites adopted the Western habit of distributing ashes on the first day of Lent, but since Great Lent began for the Maronites on Clean Monday rather than Ash Wednesday, they distributed the ashes on Clean Monday, and so they began to call the day Ash Monday. (With minor exceptions, no other Eastern Catholics or Eastern Orthodox distribute ashes on Clean Monday.)

Other Names for Clean Monday

In addition to Ash Monday, Clean Monday is known by other names among different groups of Eastern Christians. Pure Monday is the most common name; among Greek Catholics and Orthodox, Clean Monday is referred to by its Greek name, Kathari Deftera (just as Mardi Gras is simply French for "Fat Tuesday"). Among Eastern Christian on Cyprus, Clean Monday is called Green Monday, a reflection of the fact that Clean Monday has traditionally been regarded by Greek Christians as the first day of spring.

How Is Clean Monday Observed?

Clean Monday is a reminder that we should begin Lent with good intentions and a desire to clean our spiritual house. Clean Monday is a day of strict fasting for Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, including abstinence not only from meat but from eggs and dairy products as well.

On Clean Monday and throughout Great Lent, Eastern Catholics frequently pray the Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian.