We are In the Midst of Great Lent. How is Your Journey Going?
Now that we have reached the month of March, we find ourselves well into the midst of Great Lent and on a journey moving toward Holy Week. At the end of this month, on Saturday, March 31st, we will find ourselves making the transition into Holy Week, with the Saturday of Lazarus.
How has each of our Lenten journeys been going? Are we whole-heartedly into this Holy Season, immersed in fasting, increased prayer, participating in spiritual exercise/discipline (askesis), repentance, almsgiving, and being blissfully in our Lord’s midst and bosom?
Being the dynamic beings, that we are as humans, I’m sure each of our responses vary greatly! For we are at times “hot,” “cold,” “lukewarm,” and everything in between the limits of the polar extremes. To help each us focus on what our true aspirations and goals should be during Great Lent, I offer the wisdom of our Father among the Saints, St. John Chrysostom, the “Golden Mouth,” when he speaks to us about what the true nature of fasting is, as this practice is a very crucial and necessary component of our participation throughout Great Lent.
Here is what St. John has to say to us:
“Fasting is a medicine. But medicine, as beneficial as it is, becomes useless because of the inexperience of the user. He has to know the appropriate time that the medicine should be taken and the right amount of medicine and the condition of the body which is to take it, the weather conditions and the season of the year and the appropriate diet of the sick and many other things. If any of these things are overlooked, the medicine will do more harm than good. So, if one who is going to heal the body needs so much accuracy, when we care for the soul and are concerned about healing it from bad thoughts, it is necessary to examine and observe everything with every possible detail.
Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.
In other words, not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations.” ~St. John Chrysostom
So we see that this period of Great Lent is not about abiding by empty actions and rituals as means in and of themselves. There are many deep, meaningful and purposeful things that are suppose to be happening during this blessed period of the year, a little more than 1/10 of it. Fasting, for example, is a most useful tool to curb our passions and sinful desires and making room in our hearts for the Lord to dwell and abide. It is meant to aid us in recognizing our hunger for what is truly and genuinely needed in our lives: a relationship with God, to Whom belongs all glory, honor and worship. He is our fulfillment in His Self-Emptying Love, His Mercy, Glory and in His Extreme Humility. He fulfills our lives in that He has, in paraphrasing one of the hymns in the Divine Liturgy, “so humbled Himself by taking on flesh of the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, with out change becoming man. And was crucified and conquered death by His Death.”
I wish you all a beautiful completion of your Lenten Journey, filled with our Lord’s Ever-Abiding, Loving, Merciful, Glorious and Fulfilling Presence in your lives!
With Love in Christ,
Sunday after Holy Cross; Nikitas the Great Martyr; Philotheos the Righteous; Bessarion of Larissa; Righteous Father Symeon, Archbishop of Thessolonica; John the New Martyr of Crete; Afterfeast of the Holy Cross; Porphyrios the Actor