Thursday, March 27, 2014

Remaining Steadfast... with the Lord's help!

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Yesterday evening was our most well-attended Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts so far this Great Lent.  At the service we heard the following stichera that sounds like a deeply encouraging call to remain steadfast in the course of the Fast, in imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself:

The fast, the source of blessings,
now has brought us midway through its course.
Having pleased God with the days that have passed
we look forward to making a good use of the days to come,
for growth in blessings brings forth even greater achievements.
While pleasing Christ, the giver of all blessings, we cry:
O Lord, who fasted and endured the cross for our sake,
make us worthy to share blamelessly in Your paschal victory,
by living in peace and rightly giving glory to You
with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

As we begin "to run out of gas" at this midway point, it is encouraging indeed to be reminded that our own Lenten efforts find their source in Christ, who not only "fasted," but who also "endured the cross for our sake."  Jesus did not give up because He was either tired or distracted.  His whole life was a steady journey to the Cross that He would voluntarily ascend, again, "for our sake."  Basically, everything that Christ did and said was "for our sake."  Our modest efforts, combined with and/or manifesting our faith, find their meaning in the possibility that we may be considered "worthy to share blamelessly" in the Lord's "paschal victory."  If Great Lent is a "journey to Pascha," then the prospect of not completing our journey should be a frightening and sobering one.  This annual journey toward the "paschal victory" of Christ is a microcosm of our entire life's journey toward our ultimate goal of experiencing the paschal victory of life over death.

Temptations abound, all with the potential to divert us from our goal.  This being the case, some of the most encouraging words we can hear are found in the Epistle to the Hebrews:  "For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted" (HEB. 2:18).  Knowing through experience what it means to be tempted, as the Lord was in His humanity, He is compassionate towards all of us. 

In another magnificent passage in Hebrews, we are further encouraged:

"For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning" (HEB. 4:15).  

Since the Lord Jesus Christ is the "great high priest who has passed through the heavens" (HEB. 4:14), a great blessing has been bestowed upon us:

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need" (HEB. 4:16). 

Not a harsh Judge, but a great and compassionate high priest - this is our Lord Jesus Christ!

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