Our 2018 Journey towards Great Lent Begins!

“The gateway to divine repentance has been opened: let us enter eagerly, purified in our bodies and observing abstinence from food and passions, as obedient servants of Christ who has called the world into the heavenly Kingdom. Let us offer to the King of all a tenth part of the whole year, that we may look with love upon His Resurrection.”

~Sessional Hymn, Orthros, Cheesefare Monday

Dearest Spiritual Ohana,

We now come to enter into a very special time in the year, which takes up a little more than 1/10 of it, namely Great Lent. This great period and season begins on Monday, February 19th, this year.  Preceding Great Lent, we open up a Liturgical Book called the “Triodion,” which is made up of a preparatory period of 4 Sundays that lead us into It.  Then the Triodion takes us through 5 Sundays of Great Lent and we end with Great and Holy Week, particularly on Holy Saturday, with the end of the late night Vigil.  The purpose of this period is to bring us to the realization of what is the most important element in our life, which is a relationship with our God and Creator and to partake of the true joy which is found in His Heavenly Kingdom and no where else.

We are, as human beings, often involved in the endless pursuit to find happiness and to avoid pain and suffering.  The Holy Fathers remind us that “happiness is fleeting, but joy is everlasting.”  Both happiness and joy seem, at first, to be one and part of the same thing.  However, when we examine the wisdom of the Holy Fathers, we find the spiritually beneficial fruits of what they have to offer us, namely that ultimately God is the fulfillment of all our needs and wants and that we ought not dwell on what is temporal, but rather what is eternal.

It is imperative, for us as Orthodox Christians, to participate fully in Great Lent.  This entails struggles and challenges, especially against our own desires and passions.  In Lent, we practice self-control and self-denial by crucifying our flesh and its desires.  Intense fasting comes into play, increased number of services, mindfulness of our relationship to those that surround us daily, and our need for connectivity to God.  At first, it may seem like we are giving up a lot, but actually during this time we gain more than what we give up.  If we treat this Holy Season like any other part of the year, we deny ourselves of the true joy and fulfillment in our lives and focus merely on the fleeting happiness and desires of life.  Please do not miss out on the journey we are embarking on, namely participation in the beauty of the Triodion period and foremost the Season of Great Lent.

In the proper spirit of the Triodion and Great Lent, I would like to share with you a beautiful reflection from the Elder Tryphon who is the Abbot of All-Merciful Savior Monastery, Vashon Island, Washington.  This reflection really puts our lives, as Orthodox Christians, into their proper perspectives.  Here is what Abbot Tryphon offers us:

“The inevitability of death is particularly difficult to face for most Americans, as we’ve become a people that eschew traditional funerals, preferring to “celebrate the life of our loved one, while disposing of the body, and banning any sign of death from the memorial service should we even decide to have a service. Yet the awareness of our own eventual death is the very thing we should be thinking about, if we want to be prepared for Eternity.

When we live our life focused on enjoyment, pleasure, and the acquisition of material goods, we enslave ourselves, and can only find freedom in God’s love. This love creates perfection and faultlessness, and when we think on your own death we become free to perform every task for God.

Our fallen and imprisoned heart is liberated, and becomes inflamed with the love of God when we enter into a relationship with Him. This love of God engenders a love that permeates our very essence, allowing us to love every person and every creature. Our heart burns with love. This love turns chaos into harmony and it is Divine energy and Divine strength that transforms us into the being God intended us to be. We are His child, deified and made whole, and the chaos of our lives is turned into harmony.”

I pray that all of you have a Most Blessed and Spiritually Fulfilling Great Lent!  May our Lord enlighten us to witness, acknowledge and experience His Love, Mercy and Glory in our personal lives.  And in response to what He has done for us, let us each uniquely give Him glory, with our God-given combination of gifts and talents, as members of His Body, His Holy Church.  As St. Paul says in His Letter (Epistle) to the Ephesians, 4:11-12, let us also each do our part in being these:  “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  

With Love in Christ,
+Fr. Alexander

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