My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
HOLY AND GREAT LENT:
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE WILDERNESS FOR
FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS
"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness TO BE TEMPTED BY
THE DEVIL. And when He had HE HAD FASTED FORTY DAYS AND FORTY
NIGHTS, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him he said;
‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread…" (St. Matthew 4:1-3).
In his commentary on the Gospel of Saint Matthew 4:1, Saint Theophylact says, when the Evangelist Matthew writes "Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness," is teaching us that it is especially after our baptism that we should expect temptations, He is led up by the Holy Spirit; for He did nothing apart from the Holy Spirit. He IS LED INTO THE WILDERNESS TO SHOW US THAT THE DEVIL TEMPTS US WHEN HE SEES US ALONE AND WITHOUT HELP FROM OTHERS. Therefore WE MUST NOT PUT TRUST IN OURSELVES WITHOUT ANY COUNSEL FROM OTHERS. "To be tempted by the devil." The devil is called "the slanderer" because he slandered God to Adam, saying, ‘God envies you.’ And even now among us, the devil slanders virtue."
It is very appropriate as we continue our Lenten journey to recall that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness and how He was tempted by Satan himself at the conclusion of the 40 days and nights. All the holy Apostles, holy Fathers, and Mothers of the Church, all the Saints, all the holy Martyrs, and Confessors, followed Christ’s example. One cannot be considered to be a follower of Christ, a disciple of Christ, a Christian, and not be an imitator of Christ. Somehow we, Orthodox Christians, have come to believe that the forty days and nights of the Lenten period of prayer and fasting is a Greek custom, or a Russian custom, or a Rumanian, or Serbian custom, etc. Therefore we marginalize the practice of it and we have reduced it to mean absolutely nothing. We see no importance in it and therefore it has been made by many as AN ‘OPTIONAL’ practice. Many are following the practice of the heterodox where any and all of the Christian beliefs, traditions, and Holy Scripture have been reduced to ‘opinion’ and when it comes to the Holy Scripture become SELECTIVE what they agree with and what they don’t. Who taught this slander! Orthodox Christians always adhere to the Divine Teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ and the divine and AUTHENTIC teachings of our holy Church unadulterated and pure. We, as Orthodox Christians, TOTALY OBEY OUR SAVIOR AND OUR HOLY CHURCH. We are as loyal and faithful to our Orthodox Christian Faith today, as our fellow Christians have been in other centuries.
A total commitment to Our Faith is required. No one can be a fair-weather Orthodox. It is no different than being faithful in other things such as marriage, friendship, business, professions, military, sports, pilots, scientists, explorers, etc. all require total commitment in order to be successful. Nothing can be half-way and have good and positive results. The same way with Holy and Great Lent. I have heard over recent years some of our people say that I’ve decided to give up chocolate, or smoking, watching T.V., or drinking coffee, etc., and even there they are not successful because its not more than empty words and resolutions. How many are truly adhere to our Holy Orthodox Tradition today? Do we really know? Are any of our faithful fast, attend the divine services, receive the sacraments, repent of their sins, reconcile with their enemies, have a prayer discipline, become sensitive to the less fortunate people, attempt to better live the Christian faith and grow in Christ, study the Holy Scripture and the sacred writings of the holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church? Someone said, "there is a difference between being a good person and someone who is a good Christian."
"And when He had fasted." He (Jesus Christ) fasted to show us THAT FASTING IS A GREAT WEAPON AGAINST TEMPTATION, just as the love of delicacies WAS THE BEGINNING OF ALL SIN writes Saint Theophylact. "Forty days and forty nights." He fasts as long as Moses and Elijah did, for if He had fasted longer, it would have seemed that He had taken flesh in appearance only. "Afterward He hungered." He hungered only when He permitted His nature to do so, TO GIVE THE DEVIL THE OPPORTUNITY THROUGH HUNGER TO APPROACH HIM AND ENGAGE HIM IN COMBAT so that Christ could throw him down and vanquish him and GRANT US THE VICTORY."
"And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." That prowler, the devil, had heard the voice from heaven, and then he saw the Lord hunger, and he was in doubt, wondering how the Son of God could hunger. Therefore he tempts Him, to find out. He FLATTERS Christ, meaning to snare, to trap Him by saying, ‘If thou be the Son of God.’ You might ask, "What sin was it to make bread out of stones?" Listen, then: IT IS A SIN EVEN TO ANYTHING THAT THE DEVIL SAYS. Consider this as well, the devil did not say, "Command that this stone be made bread," but "these stones", wishing to cast Christ INTO GLUTTONY. For one loaf would certainly suffice a man who was hungry. For these reasons, then, Christ did not listen to him.
"But He answered and said It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." The testimony is from the Old Testament, from the words of Moses. The Hebrews, too, had been fed by the manna, not by real bread; for the word of God the manna fulfilled every need of the Hebrews, and it became whatever food each one might desire to eat. For the manna provided to each, THE TASTE HE DESIRED. whether of fish, eggs, or cheese."
The Almighty God humbled the Israelites by letting them go hungry, then feeding them with manna, all to help them realize their DEPENDENCE UPON Him (Deuteronomy 8:2, 3). Jesus IS TESTED WITH HUNGER 40 DAYS, BUT HE DOES NOT SIN. Jesus’ answers to Satan are from Deuteronomy AND ALL CALL FOR LOYALTY TO GOD: WE ARE TO LIVE BY THAT WHICH GOD COMMANDS. He is the loyal and obedient Son who triumphs over temptations.
Jesus "FASTED" to overcome temptations, GIVING US AN EXAMPLE OF OUR OWN POWER AND OUR LIMITATIONS. The hunger of the flesh does NOT CONTROL Him; rather, He controls His flesh. Jesus’ forty days IS THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH’S FORTY-DAY LENTEN OBSERVANCE BEFORE HOLY WEEK. IT IS A SPIRITUAL PREPARATION FOR THE Passion and Resurrection of Christ. (Source: Orthodox Study Bible)
(To be continued)
"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