Dear Parish Faithful Friends in Christ,
Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage. So, clothed in raiment of light, let us hasten to the Holy Resurrection on the third day, that shines upon the world with the glory of eternal life. (Matins of Monday in the First Week of the Fast).
I would like to wish one and all a blessed Lenten journey as we embark on the course of the fast on this “Clean Monday,” the first day of Great Lent. We are well aware of the challenges ahead of us, but these challenges and our resolve to meet them with humility, but also with firmness of faith, only reinforces how essential it is to live according to the Orthodox Way as the surest preparation for the paschal mystery. We have two basic choices to make: to respond with perseverance as we “gird our loins” to cross over the desert of the fast en route to the “Land of the Living” where we encounter the Risen Lord. Or … we can wimp out! I trust that only the former choice is uppermost in your minds and hearts.
We are given the tools of the ascetical life by Christ Himself: prayer, almsgiving and fasting. At our most basic biological level we need to eat and drink to sustain our lives. Yet our passions transform that need into its opposite: to live in order to eat. As Christ teaches us: “Man does not live by bread alone.” That is the truth we would like to “taste” as we are tested by fasting.
In addition, we have the following tools to strengthen us in our Lenten efforts:
+ the many liturgical services unique to Great Lent;
+ the reading of the Scriptures;
+ faithfulness in prayer;
+ the confession of our sins in the Mystery of Repentance;
+ the love of our neighbor through almsgiving.
As I said yesterday in the homily: come up with a “domestic strategy” which allows you to integrate the season of Great Lent into your lives; rather than reduce it to some symbolic gestures. Be balanced, but be serious.
I hope to see many of you this evening as we chant the first part of the compunctionate Canon of Repentance by St. Andrew of Crete at 7:00 p.m.