March 14, 2016
Holy and Great Lent
It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more....
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 our solemn journey through this holy time of Great Lent, we are guided by the beautiful services and traditions of our Orthodox faith to dedicate ourselves to prayer and fasting, to gather more frequently in worship, to contemplate the direction of our lives in repentance, and to strengthen our faith in the hope of the light and life to come.
The spiritual impact of this sacred time of year is tremendous if we dedicate our full being—heart, body, soul and mind—to God. This transformation in our lives and the witness of life and faith we offer others through Great Lent is affirmed in the opening of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In giving thanks to God for the Christians in Philippi and their partnership in the Gospel, Paul writes, It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with all knowledge and discernment (Phil. 1:9). From their faith in and experience of the love of God and their love for one another, they were growing in spiritual wisdom.
When we come before God in repentance, we too experience His great love for us. His abundant and saving grace is revealed and acknowledged throughout this season of Lent as we are guided to the complete and ultimate act of love in the Passion of our Lord. As we receive His love and our lives are renewed in it, we are blessed with a deeper knowledge of truth and His will. Blessed by His grace and presence, we gain a higher level of discernment to see what is pure and holy.
This is affirmed by the Apostle Paul as he continues his letter: So that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Phil. 1:10). In these words we can see how Great Lent is a preparation to receive the Risen Lord; but we also see how this sacred time should influence our lives in our preparation for eternity. Through repentance and the forgiveness of God we are able to see the way to salvation. Through grace and faith we become a new person in Christ, knowing and seeking the abundant blessings that He offers to us.
The Apostle Paul refers to these blessings as the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:11). During Great Lent and through our prayer, worship and fasting we experience these blessings, and we see the great spiritual fruit that comes. We see how this journey is the journey of our entire life, culminating in the blessings of eternal life and communion with God. We see the blessings through our witness and ministry to others during this holy season, as we prayerfully anticipate the light and joy of Pascha.
As we look to the days and weeks ahead, I prayerfully ask that you commit your time to the spiritual opportunities offered in Great Lent. Be faithful in prayer and worship. Keep the fast. Offer your time and resources to help those in need. Above all, seek the grace of God that your love may abound for Him and each other, and from the abundant blessings and spiritual fruit we receive, we will offer thanksgiving, glory, and praise to Him!
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America