The Season of the Triodion and Great Lent is upon us!
Dearest Spiritual Ohana,
“O Giver of life, open the doors of repentance to me, for my spirit goes to Your holy temple early, bearing a wholly defiled temple of the body. But, as compassionate, cleanse it by the loving kindness of Your mercy.”
~Hymn from Sunday Orthros during Period of the Triodion
As we enter and journey thru the month of February, we make preparations for and enter into Great Lent. The liturgical book of the “Triodion” is opened as of February 5th, and Great Lent begins with Clean Monday on February 27th. This is a time to rejoice, because this is an opportunity for us to unlock and experience in our personal lives a spiritual joy that cannot be surpassed by any earthly sense of happiness.
We have a tendency to think that Great Lent is about giving up things over all the blessings and benefits it brings. I like to think of this special period of Great Lent as a “Spring Cleaning” of our personal and spiritual lives. It is true that we are called to abstain from meat, dairy products and deny ourselves many of the unnecessary activities. However, the rewards and benefits of fasting and self-denial outweigh all the struggles we go through in that we gain much more than the energy we put forth, if we endeavor to undertake this period of the year whole-heatedly.
We must see the true purpose of Great Lent for what it is, which is “to bring every human person into the Love of God,” and for us to be “healed of our brokenness and woundedness.” Our Lord wants to make us whole and desires that we be healed of our physical but more importantly our spiritual illnesses.
We are called to reach our true and full potential as humans by becoming like God, as much as is humanly possible. Christ, in taking on our human nature, is the prototype and model for us, in His own human nature. Our goal as human beings is to strive, throughout our lives, to become Christ-like. This is what we mean by the term “Theosis” in our Orthodox Faith. And this process is ongoing up until our very last breath.
Let us reflect on some of the benefits of fasting. When we fast, our bodies feel lighter. This alleviates the “bogged-down” weightiness of our bodies and allows us to pray more attentively. In praying, our goal is to connect with God and experience an unsurpassed peace in partaking of His greatness, His abundance of love and His mercy. No earthly possession or pursuit can possibly grant us the inner joy that we people long for, so deep within our beings, which only God can fulfill in us. In our human nature, being made in God’s Image and Likeness, there is this deep longing for fulfillment which can only be satisfied with God’s Presence. So fasting is ultimately a tool which allows us to long and hunger for God.
This Holy Period calls us to put our faith into action. The themes of the four Sundays leading us up to Great Lent, call us to action and prepare us to have the appropriate disposition in our lives. Allow me to list the themes of the four Sundays preceding Great Lent. We have the following four Sundays: Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Judgment Sunday (Meat-fare), and Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheese-fare). The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee moves us to be humble before God and our fellow people around us and not to compare ourselves to one another but compare ourselves only to God. The Sunday of the Prodigal Son calls us to reflect on the immense Love and Mercy of our Heavenly Father and repenting wherever we “missed the mark.” Judgment Sunday helps us to reflect on our accountability before God, in questioning within ourselves our mercy toward others while at the same time seeing the image of God in each and every person we encounter. Forgiveness Sunday focuses on letting go of the debts and trespasses we have against one another, fasting with joy and not showing off our virtues and how we abstain, and focusing on eternal heavenly treasures rather than the material possessions that we acquire or have acquired.
As we embark on the spiritual journey to and through Great Lent, let us be encouraged by the Apostle Peter when he says, “take up the whole armor of God.” Let us fast to the best of our ability, increase our prayer at home and attend as many Lenten services as we are able. Let us recommit and commend ourselves to Christ in showing our love for one another in a practical and tangible manner, as this whole season is meant to move us to do so.
Let us make the most of this season, so that by God’ Grace, we may come to the celebration of our Lord’s Saving Passion, Death and Resurrection truly transformed and renewed spiritually!
With Love in Christ,
Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna; Proterios, Archbishop of Alexandria; Gorgonia the Righteous, sister of Gregory the Theologian; Damian the New Martyr of Mount Athos; Boswell, Abbot of Melrose Abbey