My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
The 40 Days’ Journey of Lent which leads to the
Celebration of the All-Holy Pascha.
The Forty Days’ journey of Holy and Great Lent recalls, in particular, the forty years to which the Chosen People journeyed through the WILDERNESS. For us, as for the children of Israel, Holy Lent is a time of pilgrimage. It is A TIME OF LIBERATION FROM THE BONDAGE OF Egypt, from DOMINATION BY SINFUL PASSIONS; A TIME FOR PROGRESS BY FAITH THROUGH A BARREN AND WATERLESS DESERT; A TIME FOR UNEXPECTED REASSURANCE, WHEN IN OUR HUNGER WE ARE FED WITH MANNA FROM HEAVEN; A TIME WHEN GOD SPOKE 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.
In our Holy Tradition, the number 40 is sacred, a number that we see repeatedly throughout our Judaio-Christian history. The number 40 was pointed out and determined by God Himself and was revealed from on High as the designated measure of the fulfillment of the Prophets and later on to the holy Apostles, holy Fathers, and others. As a matter of fact, the term of repentance and correction of sinners was usually determined by the number of 40 days.
In the Old Testament, we are informed of the rain that fell for "forty days and nights" during the Great Flood (Genesis 7:4). Noah waited for 40 days and after the tops of the mountains were seen after the Flood, before releasing a raven (Genesis 8:5-7). The Hebrew people lived in the lands outside the Promised Land for "forty years" (Numbers 32:13). Moses spent three consecutive periods of "forty days and nights" on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 9:11; 9:25; 10:10). "Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up the moutain; and he was on the mountain "for 40 days and nights" Exodus 24:18).
"Moses broke the law regarding the Sabbath, which requires rest but not fasting. Yet he was GUILTLESS in spite of journeying on the mountain and FASTING FOR FORTY DAYS AND NIGHTS. He directed his whole desire toward God and his anger against the enemies of God. The FORESHADOWING GRACE, in which the Sabbath Day would be fulfilled. Under grace, WE NO LONGER SERVE GOD ONE DAY A WEEK, BUT WE ARE TO DIRECT OUR WHOLE DESIRE TOWARD GOD AND OUR ANGER TOWARD THE DEVIL THROUGHOUT OUR LIFE. We also cause our bodies to cease from sin and urge them forward to assist our obedience to the Divine precepts."
In the New Testament, the number 40 is once again a dominant and a frequent number. In the life of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, fulfilling the law that He Himself had given, is brought in the Temple as a Child on the 40 day from the time of His birth. Following His baptism in the River Jordan, "He was led up by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He HAD FASTED FOR FORTY DAYS AND NIGHTS, afterward He was hungry" (Matthew 4:1-2). We who are baptized into Christ need not be DEFEATED WHEN TEMPTATIONS COME ALONG BECAUSE, LIKE JESUS, WE ARE AIDED BY THE Holy Spirit. The "WILDERNESS" (v. 1) IS A SPIRITUAL BATTLEGROUND, AN IMAGE OF THE WORLD, at once the home of demons and a source of divine contemplation. Our Lord reverses Israel’s putting up with temptation in the wilderness. The Chosen of People WERE TESTED for 40 YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS, during which they were disobedient. So God HUMBLED THEM BY LETTING THEM GO HUNGRY, THEN FEEDING THEM WITH THE HEAVENLY MANNA. ALL TO HELP THEM REALIZE THEIR DEPENDENCE UPON HIM (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). Our Savior Jesus Christ IS TESTED but DOES NOT SIN. Christ "FASTED" TO OVERCOME TEMPTATION, giving us an example OF OUR POWER AND OUR LIMITATIONS. THE HUNGER OF THE FLESH DOES NOT CONTROL HIM, rather, He CONTROLS HIS FLESH. Jesus’ fasting "forty days and nights" IS THE FOUNDATION OF THE Church’s FORTY-DAY Lenten observance before Holy and Great Week (and also of the fast before the Holy Nativity and Theophany Feasts). IT IS A SPIRITUAL PREPARATION FOR THE Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
"Let us hasten eagerly towards our journey’s end…
So may we be counted worthy to venerate the
Divine Passion of Christ our God,
And to attain His Dread and Holy Resurrection".
The two preceding Sundays, of the Last Judgment and of Forgiveness, together consitute–although in reverse order – a recapitulation of the whole range of Sacred History, from its beginning-point. Adam in Paradise, to its end-point, the Second Coming of Christ, WHEN ALL TIME AND HISTORY ARE TAKEN UP INTO ETERNITY. During the Forty Days that now follow, although this wider perspective is never forgotten, there is an increasing concentration upon the Central Moment in Sacred History, upon the SAVING EVENT OF Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, WHICH MAKES POSSIBLE MAN’S RETURN TO PARADISE AND INAUGURATES THE End. Holy Lent is, from this point of view, A JOURNEY WITH A PRECISE DIRECTION; IT IS THE JOURNEY TO THE ALL-HOLY PASCHA. The goal of our journey is concisely expressed in the closing prayer at the Liturgy of the Presanctified: "…may we come uncondemned to worship at the Holy Resurrection." Throughout the Forty Days we are reminded that we are on the move, TRAVELLING ON A PATH THAT LEADS STRAIGHT TO GOLGOTHA AND THE Empty Tomb. (Source: The Lenten Triodion)
It has been said that it is not the sin that condemns a person but the unwillingness to admit it. That, of course, implies lack of humility and honesty. Ego and/or Pride is our worst enemy and leads to perdition. The Lenten ascetic struggle has as its goal the removal of man’s ego and pride and the acquisition of genuine humility and meekness. Only a humble person can admit that he or she is totally dependent on God for all things in life. God is our Provider, our Nourisher, our Father, our Savior, our Lord and God, Who never cease to care for us and to constantly protect us from all danger and temptation. No one can claim making any kind of spiritual progress when he or she refuses to acknowledge dependency on God. Tragically when mankind has obtained much wealth and power believes that there is no God and therefore acts as though he is in control of his life until something dreadful occurs unexpectedly, i.e., illness, tragedy, suffering, losing his fortune, etc. and reminds him of his limitations and mortality. We must not act foolishly but instead let us be thankful to God always for His countless blessings He bestowes upon all of us through out our brief time here on earth.
"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