Dear Parish Faithful,
The following meditation has been posted on the OCA website. Thought I would share it with the parish on this first day of Great Lent as a kind of summary of my meditations from last week.
Great Lent: Be balanced, but be serious
“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, and 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].
On Monday, February 23, 2015, Orthodox Christians around the world begin their Lenten journey. We are well aware of the challenges ahead of us, but these challenges—and our resolve to meet them with humility and firmness of faith—only reinforce 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 to 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; and
+ the love of our neighbor through almsgiving.
With the first day of Great Lent on the immediate horizon, may we come up with a “domestic strategy” that allows us to integrate the season of Great Lent into our lives, rather than reducing the season to mere symbolic gestures. Be balanced, but be serious.