My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
HOLY AND GREAT LENT: "THE STADIUM OF VIRTUE"
"When I ponder in my wretchedness on the
many terrible things that I have done, I tremble for
that fearful day, the Day of Judgment. But trusting
in the mercy of Your compassion, like David I cry
to You, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to
Your great mercy." (Idiomelon, Mode pl. 2)
"The STADIUM OF VIRTUE IS NOW OPEN; those who
wish to compete, enter therein, girded for the GOOD
CONTEST OF LENT, for those who compete according
to the rules shall receive their laurels rightfully.
Taking up the full armor of the Cross, let us do battle
against the Enemy. As an impregnable wall, we have
the Faith, PRAYER AS OUR BREASTPLATE, and
ACTS OF MERCY AS OUR HELMET. Instead of sword,
THER IS FASTING, which cuts every evil from the heart.
He who does this shall attain A TRUE CROWN FROM
Christ, the King of All, on Judgment Day."
(Idiomelon. Mode pl. 1.)
As we set out on the spiritual journey of Holy and Great Lent, we are reminded that we do not travel alone but as members of a Christian family supported by the prayers of many invisible helpers. "Lent is a time when we weep with Adam and Eve before the closed gate of Eden, repenting with them for the sins that have deprived us of our free communion with God." But "Lent is also a time when we are preparing to celebrate the saving event of Christ’s death and Resurrection, which HAS REOPENED PARADISE TO US ONCE MORE" (St. Luke 23:43).
"The time has come – the start of our spiritual
contests, the victory over demons, the full armor
of self-control, the Angel’s dignity, the confidence
before God. Thereby did Moses become conversant
with the Creator, and heard the invisible voice. Lord,
through fasting, make us worthy to worship Your
Passion and Holy Resurrection, as You love humanity."
(Glory. From the Triodion. Mode pl. 2)
O Lord keep us this evening without sin.
Blessed are You, O Lord, God of our fathers,
and praised and glorified is Your Name to the ages.
Amen. O Lord, let Your mercy be upon us for we
have set our hope in You. O Lord, teach me Your
Commandments. Blessed are You, Master, grant
me understanding of Your Commandments.
Blessed are You, Holy One, enlighten me with Your
Commandments. Lord, Your mercy is forever. Do
not despise the works of Your hands. To You is
due praise, to You is due song, to You is due glory,
to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now
and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
The objective of our Lenten journey is that "we come uncondemned to worship at the Holy Resurrection. Throughout the forty days, we are reminded that we are traveling on a path that leads straight to Golgotha and the Empty Tomb.
"The forty days’ journey of Holy Lent recalls, in particular, THE FORTY YEARS in which the Chosen People journeyed through the wilderness. For us, as for the children of Israel, Lent is a time of pilgrimage. It is a time for our liberation from the bondage of Egypt, from DOMINATION OF SINFUL PASSIONS; A TIME FOR PROGRESS B FAITH THROUGH A BARREN AND WATERLESS DESERT; A TIME FOR UNEXPECTED REASSURANCE, WHEN IN HUNGER WE ARE FED WITH MANNA FROM HEAVEN; A TIME WHEN GOD SPEAKS TO US OUT OF THE DARKNESS OF Sinai; A TIME IN WHICH WE DRAW NEAR TO THE Promised Land, to OUR TRUE HOME IN Paradise whose door THE CRUCIFIED AND RISEN Christ HAS REOPENED FOR US."
"The Fast is here, the Mother of chastity, the
accuser of sins, the advocate of repentance,
the life of Angels and the salvation of men,
faithful, let us cry: O God, have mercy on us."
(Aposticha, From the Triodion. Idiomelon. Mode pl. 1)
"Yet it would be misleading to speak only of this element of weariness and hunger. Abstinence leads, not merely to this, but also to a sense OF LIGHTNESS, WAKEFULNESS, FREEDOM, AND JOY. Even if the fast proves debilitating at first, afterward we find that it enables us to sleep less, to think more clearly, and to work more decisively. As many doctors acknowledge, periodical fasts contribute to bodily hygiene. While involving genuine SELF-DENIAL, FASTING DOES NOT SEEK TO DO VIOLENCE TO OUR BODY BUT RATHER TO RESTORE IT TO HEALTH AND EQUILIBRIUM. Most us in the Western world habitually eat more than we need, so much more than half of the American population is obese and suffering because of that fact of all kinds of illnesses. FASTING LIBERATES OUR BODY FROM THE BURDEN OF EXCESSIVE WEIGHT and makes it a willing partner in the task OF PRAYER, ALERT AND RESPONSIVE TO THE VOICE OF THE Holy Spirit."
"True fasting IS TO BE CONVERTED IN HEART AND WILL; IT IS TO RETURN TO GOD, TO COME HOME LIKE THE PRODIGAL SON TO OUR FATHER’S HOME. In the words of Saint John Chrysostom, it means "ABSTINENCE NOT ONLY FROM FOOD BUT FROM SINS." "THE FAST", HE INSISTS, "SHOULD BE KEPT NOT ONLY BY MOUTH ALONE BUT ALSO BY THE EYE, THE EAR, THE FEET, THE HANDS AND ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY": The eye must abstain from impure sights, the ear from malicious gossip, the hands from acts of injustice. It IS USELESS to fast from food, protests Saint Basil the Great, and yet to indulge IN CRUEL CRITICISM AND SLANDER: "YOU DO NOT EAT MEAT, BUT YOU DEVOUR YOUR BROTHER." (Source: The Lenten Triodion)
Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church provides the faithful with wise and loving guidance so that we may benefit greatly from the sacred season. If we follow it according to her instruction we will profit much more spiritually and strengthen our communion with our Lord Christ. We will be comforted, we will find inner peace, we will become more confident, we will become more compassionate, we will become more prepared to face our mortality, we will become more sensitive to the needs of others, we will become more humble, we will strengthen our self-control, we will become instruments of peace, and for certain we will grow in Christ our Savior.
I urge all to attend all the Lenten divine services and participate in the Mysteria (sacraments) of Repentance/Confession, of Holy Oil (Unction), and of course, Holy Communion.
"Let us observe a fast acceptable and pleasing to the Lord.
True fasting is to put away all evil,
To control the tongue, to forbear from anger,
To abstain from lust, slander, falsehood and perjury.
If we RENOUNCE these things, then is our fasting
true and acceptable to God.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George