MESSAGE ON THE COMMENCEMENT OF HOLY AND GREAT LENT
To the clergy, monastics and faithful of our God-protected Diocese
This Sunday we look to forgiveness as we enter the holy journey of Great Lent. To forgive is to reject the hopeless “dead-ends” of human relations and to refer them to Christ. Forgiveness is truly a “breakthrough” of the Kingdom into this sinful and fallen world. Only repentant heart is on the way to the return to unity, solidarity, love.
As the sacred hymnography of the Church urges us, all the ascetic elements—fasting, abstinence, frugality, restriction of personal desires, intense prayer, and confession—are essential to the period of Great Lent. They are preconditions for our Eucharistic communion with God and movement of love, reunion and harmony with others. According to the Orthodox view, fasting, and asceticism in general, is not viewed as in Eastern and similar religions as a permanent distinction of the future state. In Orthodoxy, our fasting has an end; it is limited and it has no eschatological future. So then, the icon of the future age is a banquet, “the banquet of the Kingdom”—not the fasting itself.
When we limit ourselves to only the essentials, a new path is opened for us. In that case, true fasting (Lent) becomes a sort of “nourishment” (the festive fast), opposed to “pleonexia” (greed, avarice)—an inhuman approach that leads the contemporary global community to a spiritual crisis.
Just as the sacrifice on the Cross takes its meaning from the Resurrection, so all our Lenten effort finds their fulfillment in Holy Communion. And in order to receive the gift of the Resurrection and be imbued with the consolation that saves man, we have to have passed through the entire Great Lent of the trials of life.
In inviting you to the “opened arena of virtues” from our Episcopal seat, I extend to all of you my paternal prayer and spiritual blessing for a fruitful journey through the period of Great Lent, asking your forgiveness.
Given this Day of Forgiveness February 18th, 2018 at Alhambra, California
With love and blessings in Christ,