Great and Holy Lent

Come, let us enter the inner chamber of our soul
offering prayers to the Lord and crying aloud:
Our Father, who art in heaven, remit and forgive our debts,
for You alone are compassionate.
(Matins Hymn of Tuesday in the First Week)

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 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 the holy Lenten period, it is important to affirm that we are entering a very sacred time of the year that has tremendous spiritual potential for our souls, our relationship with God, and our life in His Kingdom. Lent is not merely a chronological marking of the days and weeks that lead to the commemoration of the Feast of Feasts. It is a gift, a spiritual treasure, a special opportunity to direct our full attention to the cultivation of the soul through repentance and prayer.

Over the past few weeks the commemorations of our Holy Orthodox Church have guided our hearts and minds in the way of repentance. We have been led to contemplate the great mystery of God’s forgiveness that is offered to anyone who calls upon His mercy through sincere and humble prayers. Through the parables and words of our Lord, we have been asked to look within ourselves, to enter into the “inner chamber of our souls,” to come to ourselves as the Prodigal Son, and to recognize the condition of our lives and our need for God’s grace.

This act of self-examination, of coming to ourselves, and our journey through Great Lent leads us to the Cross, the place where our sins are ultimately forgiven by Jesus Christ. Here, He waits for us to return in repentance. He waits to hear our humble cries that pour forth from our souls. Our compassionate Lord is waiting to embrace us at the end of a Lenten journey that will guide us through confession, prayer, and fasting to a blessed and saving union with Him.

At the beginning of Great Lent, therefore, we must commit ourselves to the way of repentance. We must use the powerful means given to us by God and His Holy Church as means of opening our lives to Him, asking Him for forgiveness, and attaining union with Him. First, we are led to confession by the act of entering into the chamber of our souls and acknowledging our need for repentance. The Church calls each one of us to the Sacrament of Holy Confession so that we might receive the guidance and assurance needed to turn from sin and return to the Father. Second, Great Lent guides us in regular and genuine prayer. Through personal communion with Him and participation in the services of the Church, God leads us from the gates of repentance into the glory and blessings of life in His Kingdom. It is through prayer that we enter into the “inner chamber of our souls,” see our need for salvation, and call upon His compassion for forgiveness of our sins. Third, it is also during Great Lent that a more intense observance of the discipline of fasting helps us in our journey of repentance. This gift is offered to us by the Church to aid us in overcoming temptation and the forces that seek to thwart us from communion with God. Through repentance and through these tremendous spiritual resources of our faith, we can turn from sin and our desire for what is earthly and temporal, and direct our souls toward what is heavenly and eternal.

As we begin the unique spiritual journey of Great Lent, I ask each of you to commit yourselves to the way of repentance. Enter into the depths of your soul and contemplate the condition and needs of your life. Affirm your need for the grace of God by returning to Him through repentance. Place before your soul the Cross of our Lord, and experience its redemptive power and God’s transforming love. And may our good and gracious God strengthen you in confession, prayer, and fasting as we journey through Lent and all of life toward eternal communion with Him.

With paternal love in Christ,

Archbishop of America

Archive: Archbishop Demetrios' Encyclicals