A Blessed Great Lent to All!

“Let us present a good fast, well-pleasing to the Lord! A true fast is alienation from the evil one; the holding of one's tongue, the laying aside of all anger, the removal of all sensuality, of accusation, falsehood and sins of swearing. The weakening of these will make the fast true and well-pleasing.”  ~Hymn from Vespers of Clean Monday 

Dearest Spiritual Ohana,

It is with an overwhelming sense of joy, at least for me and, hopefully, for all of you, that we enter into the Season of Great Lent on Monday, March 2nd!  I wish all of you a Most Blessed Journey through this specially appointed time of the year, one that is fulfilling and joyful as we “taste and see that Christ is the Lord,” as the Communion

Hymns from the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts proclaims:

We go through this time of the year to refresh ourselves and come to the realization of what a purposeful life is.  A purposeful life is one that is fulfilled with the Presence of Christ in the center of it.  No matter how hard we try to be happy in our lives, we cannot possibly be truly joyful without His Presence.  The Lord loves us immeasurably and always desires to dwell in each of us, but it is our free will that allows Him to either enter or not to enter into the indwelling of our hearts.

Renowned Orthodox Theologian Fr. Alexander Schmemann, of blessed memory, had a phrase that was simple, yet profound:  “Taking Lent seriously.”  This is a concrete sign that we are to take God seriously.  Jesus Christ, Himself, was very serious, especially when it came to life and death, and God and salvation.  We, too, need to take Great Lent and God seriously.

I found some wonderful advice on how we can be truly serious about Great Lent and God.  I would like to share the following with you from Fr. Steven Kostoff of the Orthodox Church in America (O.C.A.):  “Great Lent is the ‘School of Repentance.’  It is roughly equivalent to an “annual tithe” in which we offer ourselves back to God so as to be received with love, as was the prodigal son.  As such, Great Lent is a gift from God, guiding us toward a way of life we may be reluctant to assume on our own, suffering as we often are from spiritual apathy or a simple lack of focus.  Great Lent is also goal-oriented, for it leads us on a spiritual pilgrimage of preparation toward the ‘night brighter than the day’ of Pascha and the Risen Lord.  Great Lent is ‘sacred’ and ‘soul-profiting.’  It is a key component in the Orthodox Way of living out the Christian life to which we have been committed in holy Baptism.”

Fr. Kostoff, then goes on to offer us some great, practical advice:  “What can we do?  How do we not squander this time set aside for God?”

  • Prayer- Make provision to be in church for some of the Lenten services.  Assume or resume a regular Rule of Prayer in your home.  Read the psalms and other Scripture carefully and prayerfully.  Pray for others.
  • Charity- Open your heart to your neighbor. If you believe that Christ dwells within you, then try to see Christ in your neighbor.  Make your presence for the “other” encouraging and supportive.  Restrain your “ego” for the sake of your neighbor.  Help someone in a concrete manner this Great Lent.

¬üFasting - Set domestic goals about the manner in which you will observe the fast.  Test yourselves.  Resist minimalism.  If you “break” the fast, do not get discouraged or “give up,” but start over.  Assume that your Orthodox neighbor is observing the fast.  Seek silence.  Allow for a different atmosphere in the home.

With all these in mind, let us take courage and embark upon the journey through Great Lent, knowing that it is for our personal benefit, with the purpose for us to live a life filled with true joy, having Christ dwelling within us and always being in our midst.

May we complete this journey, with our hearts illumined and ready, to walk with Christ through His Passion, Crucifixion, Death on the Cross, His Descent into Hades and ultimately rejoice in the Celebration of His Holy Resurrection.

Have a Blessed Great Lent!

With Love in Christ,

+Fr. Alexander