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,
Once again we express our gratitude to God for bringing us to the beginning of Great and Holy Lent. We recognize this as an extension of our time on this Earth to experience another Lenten season, another period to come closer to Him and to His infinite and saving love. We begin the period of Great and Holy Lent on this day known as Clean Monday, an appropriate term that implies purity of mind, heart, and soul. This purity is paramount to a productive start to our Lenten journey, which we begin with vigilant prayer, fasting, and worship so that we may properly orient ourselves as we enter the Lenten season. Throughout this forty day period, we review with heightened scrutiny our shortcomings, our inadequacies, our inabilities to live up to our full potential as Christians, and the myriad of ways in which we may have fallen short of expressing the fullness of our love to God and neighbor.
As such, the period of Great and Holy Lent is an exercise in prayerful contrition. It is an exercise in repentance. It is a period of time when we consciously endeavor to turn our hearts and minds toward all that is good and holy, to a genuine “metanoia,” to a saving transformation of our inner self. It is, in other words, an opportunity for us to transform our beings into a renewed closeness with God through a period of sustained spiritual discipline or “askesis.” We do this with an eager anticipation of a newness of heart and with a spirit of gratitude and joy, remembering the unending love of God for all of us as His children.
In considering the spiritual challenges and opportunities that are afforded to us throughout Great and Holy Lent, we take special note of the unique period of the Holy Week, which, formally, marks the end of the forty day Lenten Fast. The Holy Week provides us with an especially intense time of prayer and fasting. Correspondingly, our coming closer to Christ is intensified, as we are offered more opportunities to partake of the Holy Mysteries in the Divine Liturgy and to experience the healing power of the Holy Spirit through our being anointed with Holy Oil. During Holy Week, we contemplate the days leading up to Christ’s betrayal by Judas the Iscariot in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s subsequent arrest there, and the tremendous agonies of His Passion. We encounter Christ nailed on the Cross; we remember with prayerful Lamentations His burial and descent into Hades. Above all, we glorify His triumphant Resurrection, which awaits us at the very end of the Lenten journey upon which we embark today, and which serves as a vivid reminder that death no longer has dominion over us.
This, my beloved Christians, is the period that we enter today. It is a period of magnificent opportunity for renewal. It is a season for intensified focus on the transformation of our inner selves and for intensification of our relationship with God, a God Who "humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). It is our fervent prayer that, as we reflect upon this act of supreme love throughout this season of Great and Holy Lent, we may all increase our love for Jesus Christ and our commitment to His Holy Church. May Christ’s love blossom in your hearts on the blessed occasion of the Lenten season.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America