March 11, 2019
Holy and Great Lent
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we begin this blessed time of Holy and Great Lent, we are invited to enter into a period of intense prayer, fasting and service, so that we may draw closer to God, commune with Him, and experience His grace as we reflect on our lives, our relationship with Him, and our journey to salvation. In doing this we are challenged—challenged to face what separates us from God and His will; but we are also shown the way to overcome this separation both now and for eternity.
Great Lent is most certainly a challenge as we have experienced in the weeks of preparation for this season. We have reflected on the parables of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee and the Prodigal Son. We have considered the true nature and impact of repentance and humility. We have heard the words of our Lord concerning the Last Judgment and the manner of life and service that leads to eternal life. As we enter into this holy season, we will continue to be challenged as the truth of the Gospel and the presence of God lead us to examine our lives. We are challenged to address anything that separates us from Him and that prevents us from revealing His grace to others through our lives.
We know that as we enter this solemn season we will be equipped to meet these challenges. It is a time that provides us with more opportunities to worship, more times during the ebb and flow of our daily lives to gather together to commune with God. We are called to more frequent prayer, to dedicate time each day to speak to God and to listen, and to live each moment prayerfully, affirming that He is present and guiding us. We are guided by the Church in fasting, abstaining from excess and from certain foods, as a means of living measured and discerning lives that place holiness and the will of God above all things.
These disciplines of our faith equip us to reveal God’s grace in all that we do. Through our repentance, we are prepared to offer forgiveness to others. Through our contrition of the heart, we show the power of complete surrender to God. Through our dedication of our time to prayer and worship, we affirm the true purpose and goal of life. Through our obedience to His will, we are led in service to those in need. Through our commitment to Him, Great Lent prepares us to overcome anything that separates us and others from the love of God.
This holy season is also a guide, leading us on a spiritual journey. It is a journey that leads us to joy and light; and at its inception we sing, “Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to behold His holy Pascha!” (Hymn of Vespers). It is also the journey of our lives into the blessedness of eternal life and communion with God. As we enter this solemn and sacred season, my prayer is that you will be filled with strength and grace for the Lenten journey. May this journey continue to equip you with all that you need to complete this journey in our celebration of Pascha, and ultimately, unto the blessed condition to be eternally united to God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America