Members and friends of the Nicholas Association of Orthodox Students at Fribourg University in Switzerland welcomed the visit of His Grace Bishop Alexander of Vevey, Vicar of the Western European Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, who delivered a lecture on the importance of Great Lent. The talk was held on April 2, 2019, at an event called “Philokalia Evening,” and began with a prayer to St Nicholas at the student chapel in the Salezianum dormitory. Among the attendees were Profesttor Barbara Hallensleben, Director of the Center for Eastern Church Studies; Fr Guido Vergauwen, Rector Emeritus of Fribourg University; Priest Jean Ciurin, the Association’s Dean; Mr Gabriel Solomon, icon-painter from Romania; and Stefan Constantinescu, President of the Association, along with a multitude of university students of various confessions.
His Grace discussed the importance of the spiritual journey of the “Holy Forty Days,” and crossing the “forty-day wilderness” with the aim of reaching the Holy Resurrection of the Lord. Bishop Alexander stressed the liturgical aspects of Great Lent and its educational significance in maintaining the special atmosphere of the period, which is referred to as “luminous sadness.” In this regard, the symbolism of the weeks of Great Lent and liturgical rhythm of the Orthodox Church, and the exceptional significance of the spiritual path followed by each person, the center of all things, were discussed. After the speech, a discussion commenced with the participation of all the attendees.