During the Lenten season, we are invited to consider more closely the loving invitation of our Lord to grow in holiness. Following the example of the Saints, we are presented with the formidable task of contemplating the spiritual dimension of our humanity, of looking inward at our own hearts to contemplate the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, an exercise which draws us closer to our Heavenly Father and to one another. This task of drawing closer to God and others, fundamental to the Orthodox Christian life, involves many facets, rooted in Holy Tradition, which the Church cultivates in the hearts and homes of the faithful. Through the divine services, through the discipline of fasting, through giving alms to the needy, and especially through prayerful devotion, we come to know, as children of God, the redemptive and inexhaustible love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Prayer is an indispensable aspect of our Orthodox Christian identity. It is the means through which we comprehend the mystery and love of the Holy Trinity, and gain insight into ethical principles which guide our daily actions and interactions with others. It is the vehicle through which we approach the Holy Spirit, the Comforter who nurtures the bonds of love among human beings and their Creator. St. Paul advises us to "pray unceasingly" (1 Thessalonians 5:14), to direct our entire being toward the living Christ, to participate in His crucifixion and resurrection so that by grace, in the words of the Apostle Paul, "we may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that if possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11). This is authentic prayer, the instrument and goal of our Lenten journey.

As we gather in our parishes as communities of faith and as families, and as we follow the example of Jesus and retreat from the turbulence of society into the stillness of the heart, we discover that authentic prayer extends beyond the communal and individual act of worship. Rather, authentic prayer is a condition of the heart, a state of being in communion with God and with others in ways that occupy and engage the human soul in every dimension of life, even in the most ordinary of daily tasks. Our monastic tradition endeavors to cultivate this awareness with particular emphasis on communal life and prayer. With equal conviction, our parishes strive this season to offer increased opportunities for us to cultivate prayer in daily life, through the Divine services, through the study of Scripture, through retreats and lectures, and through social outreach opportunities.

Our Orthodox Christian spiritual tradition is rich with untold treasures. During this Lenten season, I pray that we may be accorded renewed opportunities to reflect upon the splendor of these treasures, so that we may share their fruits among our families, communities, and neighbors in our contemporary society. As we contemplate the passion of our Lord, may the peace of God illumine your hearts, granting unto you closer communion with Him.

Archbishop of America