Our Journey thru Great Lent Approaches Its Conclusion!

“You have accounted us worthy to behold and embrace Your holy Cross with joy.  We beg You now, O God our Savior, enable us also to attain Your most pure sufferings by being strengthened through the Fast, so that we may bow down and sing of Your crucifixion, by which You have snatched us from death, returning us to the joyous life of Paradise.  We thankfully glorify You, O Lover of man.” ~Hymn from 4th Thursday Vespers of Great Lent

Dearest Spiritual Ohana,

I wish you a Most Blessed Month of April as we continue and conclude our journey through Great Lent, enter into Holy Week and approach the Joyous and Glorious Celebration of Pascha!  For me, this period goes by way too quickly.  I bask in the “Lenten Spring,” the period which refreshes and renews us if we are willing to wholeheartedly take on the journey and all it entails. (I am speaking of the spirit and purpose of Great Lent, referencing the book The Lenten Spring by Fr. Thomas Hopko, which I highly recommended if anyone would like a great recipe toward living a fulfilled and purposeful life.  By the way, it is still available, and I urge all of you to read it at your leisure, as I feel we can all benefit from it). I enjoy celebrating the services with your presence in and at them, as often and as many of them you are able to attend. Though this season entails many struggles through fasting, which inevitably come, the benefits far outweigh the difficulties and challenges. The benefits include most especially the joy of partaking of and participating in Christ’s Presence in our lives.  Through the proper practice of fasting, we allow ourselves to hunger and thirst for God. Our inner longing for fulfillment is quenched, and we open the doors of our hearts to have Him dwelling in them. We come to acknowledge and greatly wonder that He is “the Only Thing we ever needed” in our lives.

Fr. Thomas Hopko presents in his book, “The Lenten Spring,” what the true spirit of the Great Fast is, which is this:  “It is not enough for Christians to believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It is not enough for us to preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).  It is not enough for us to bow down before the Cross, and to decorate and venerate and kiss it at church services.  Christians must take up the Cross in their own lives.  We must be co-crucified with Christ in order to share His glory and to experience, even in this world, the beauty and power, the peace and joy of the Kingdom of God.”

Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha, which we journey through year to year, are not about attending mere rituals with empty and meaningless practices, nor are they special occasions for following cultural or religious customs passed down from generation to generation. These appointed times of fasting, solemnity and feasting are so much more!  They are meant to be deeply personal and intimate for every Christian and open to the whole world to experience and share in.  They provide the opportunity for having fulfilling peace and joy that only God can bring into our lives through His overabundant, overflowing Love and Mercy which touch the very core of our being so long as we allow them to, personally.  In order to successfully move towards this intimate experience, we need to work very hard in synergy with God, which means we need to do our part and allow God to do His part along side with us as we toil.  There is no going “solo,” meaning we cannot accomplish all this on our own, nor will God do all the work while we do nothing.  Great Lent affords us the time to undertake a spiritual “spring cleaning” of our personal, spiritual lives and get rid of the clutter which takes our focus off of our essential need for God and His Presence in them.  It is time to recalibrate our priorities and place God at the helm of our lives rather than in a secondary position or completely out of them.

As we conclude our Lenten Journey, I wish all of you strength to the end of it!  Let us then embark, as participants, on a walk through Holy Week to experience our Lord’s journey to the Cross  which includes His raising of Lazarus, His Entry into Jerusalem, His betrayal, the Mystical Supper, and His Crucifixion, and His Descent into Hades.  May your hearts be filled with joy as we come to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection and His Victory over Death!

With Love in Christ,

+Fr. Alexander

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