February 23, 2015
Holy and Great Lent
Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance….
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,
In the hymns and services of the Triodion period and at the entrance of this holy season of Great Lent, we are called to repentance. We are invited to come before God in the humility of the Publican. We are beckoned to return to His dwelling and His compassionate embrace as the Prodigal Son. We are confronted with the causes of our separation from God and our need for His great mercy. It is truly a time of repentance as we prepare to commemorate and contemplate all that has been done for us through Christ our Lord.
This solemn and reflective journey is not one of despair. This is not a time of inconsolable grief or of deep anguish and anxiety. Holy and Great Lent is a time of spiritual renewal in which repentance finds forgiveness and grace, engenders hope, strengthens our faith and leads us to abundant and eternal life.
First, we know through the Gospel that genuine repentance receives forgiveness and grace. The sincerity of the Publican expressed in his cry, God, be merciful to me a sinner, was recognized by God, and his sins were forgiven (Luke 18:13). John the Baptist preached, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, calling people to prepare to receive the One who was coming in grace and truth (Matthew 3:2). The Cross of our Lord is before us, offering by the grace of God a way to salvation through repentance.
Second, repentance nurtures hope. As the power of God’s grace transforms us, as we see the blessedness of life restored to communion with Him, we experience the joy of hope. For the Prodigal Son it was the journey to return to the house of his father, hoping that something better awaited. At the beginning of this holy season our repentance leads us on the path of hope, knowing that hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts (Romans 5:5).
Third, as through repentance we receive forgiveness and grace and our hearts are filled with hope, our faith is strengthened. As we prepare to celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise to defeat death, restore us to life, and lead us to the Resurrection, our faith in Him grows.
Finally, in this sacred time of prayer and reflection, our repentance leads us to salvation. Through repentance our eyes are opened, we turn from darkness to light so that we may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ (Acts 26:18). Through the revelation of the absolute truth by Christ and His Cross and Resurrection, we know where our repentance leads, and we know that ultimately we enter the ineffable realm of a saved life with the perspective of eternity.
At the beginning of the Great Fast and Holy Lent, let us contemplate the power of repentance and take this opportunity to examine our hearts and minds. Let us pray in humility seeking the forgiveness and grace of God, returning to communion with Him. Let us find renewed hope in the light, peace, and joy that comes from our Crucified and Risen Lord.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America