Friday, March 4, 2016

What is this struggle?

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

St Theodore the Studite (Nov. 11)

I have attached Mother Paula's excellent summary of Archbishop Ware's classic article on "The Meaning of the Great Fast."  You will find a wide-ranging approach to Great Lent that is truly "holistic" and takes us way beyond the fasting discipline that teaches us restraint in our food and drink.  Please read this carefully when you are able to give it your attention.

I would also like to include a short, but truly excellent exhortation from St. Theodore the Studite (+826). Although a rather severe ascetic himself as a monastic from the Byzantine era of the Church, you will also notice his comprehensive and "holistic" approach to Great Lent as he emphasizes the lenten struggle as no less than aimed at "purity of heart," only achieved by a wide-ranging practice of the virtues.

What is this struggle?  Not to walk according to one's own will. This is better than the other works of zeal and is a crown of martyrdom; except that for you there is also change of diet, multiplication of prostrations and increase in psalmody are in accord with the established tradition of old. 
And so I ask, let us welcome gladly the gift of the fast, not making ourselves miserable, as we are taught, but let us advance with cheerfulness of heart, innocent, not slandering, not angry, not evil, not envying; rather peaceable toward each other, and loving, fair, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits; breathing in seasonable stillness, since hubbub is damaging in a community; speaking suitable words, since too unreasonable stillness is profitless; yet above all vigilantly keeping watch over our thoughts, not giving place to the devil. 
We are lords of ourselves; let us not open our door to the devil; rather let us keep guard over our soul as a bride of Christ, unwounded by the arrows of the thoughts; for thus we are able to become a dwelling of God in Spirit.  Thus we may be made worthy to hear, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." 
Quite simply, whatever is true, whatever noble, whatever just, whatever pure, whatever lovely, whatever of good report, if there is anything virtuous, if there is anything praiseworthy, to speak like the Apostle*, do it; and the God of peace will be with you all.

* cf. Philippians 4:8.

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