February 15, 2010
Great and Holy 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,
We begin this holy season of the year in anticipation of the great spiritual blessings that we will receive through a deeper commitment to God and through our repentance and humility as we live each day in His divine presence. Great and Holy Lent is a very treasured period, filled with moments in which we can focus our hearts and minds on the grace of God. Through daily prayer, fasting, worship, and offering for the needs of others, and by the grace of God our lives will continue to be transformed by Him and our souls will be drawn closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the primary goal of the Lenten season and of all the disciplines of our Orthodox faith – to lead us to Christ. In Holy Scripture we read that prayer, fasting, and service to people were a part of our Lord’s sacred ministry. Through His example we are presented with a manner of living that focuses on communion with God and on the Gospel message of truth and life. This is also the focus of Great Lent.
First, Great and Holy Lent leads us to Christ through prayer. This season is an excellent opportunity for prayer. It is a period when we are called to renew our commitment to daily prayer and to devote more time to it. We make more time each day for personal and family prayer. All of this directs our hearts and minds to the presence and power of Christ. Our Lord is in our midst, ready to guide those who seek Him, assure those who are struggling, and lead us all through the power of God’s grace to real life.
Second, the Lenten season leads us to Christ through worship. Over the coming weeks the parishes of our Holy Archdiocese will have frequent services, opportunities to gather together in praise of God and to renew our strength through prayer and participation in the Holy Eucharist. The services of Lent are beautiful and solemn, leading us to examine our hearts within the sacred space of our sanctuaries and in communion with God and our brothers and sisters in the faith. In the holy atmosphere of worship, through the hymns, petitions, readings, and Holy Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession of sins, we are presented above all with the One who offers liberation from sin and guilt and brings salvation. Through worship we affirm the truth of what Christ has accomplished, we acknowledge His presence, and we respond in repentance and faith to His call to come and see all the blessings that God has for us.
Third, Great Lent leads us to Christ through fasting. This is a very special discipline of our faith that helps diminish our attachment to the material things of this world and deepens our dependence on God. It directs our hearts and minds toward the spiritual needs of our lives through a reorientation of our will. Through abstinence from various types of foods and limitations on the time we spend procuring and preparing food, we can devote more time to prayer, and we can discipline our entire being to be more attentive to the presence and will of God. As children of a heavenly kingdom, the purpose and goal of our lives is not tied to the treasures of this earth, but to the condition of our souls and to our faith in God. Fasting contributes to an awareness of this.
Finally, Lent leads us to Christ through offering for the needs of others. Our Lord is our example of offering, even through sacrifice. Through giving of our time and resources to others, we imitate Christ, or rather we offer Christ. We experience the joys and blessings of securing the well-being of others, and we also realize that the true meaning of life is found and fulfilled not only in what we receive from God, but in what we can give back to Him by giving to others.
At the beginning of this blessed time, may we have hearts and minds that are seeking Christ. The way to Him through Great Lent is the true way of life; it is the journey of this season toward Holy Week and the celebration of the Feast of Feasts, Holy Pascha. May we, by the grace of Christ, and through genuine repentance make this Lent a time of transformation of our existence and a renewal of our souls and minds.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America