Bulletin 218 - February 24/March 9, 2003
February 24/March 9, 2003
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive their trespasses. Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Great Lent has arrived. The time to seek forgiveness from God and from each other is at hand. If we are serious about ourselves as Orthodox Christians, we will enter Great Lent with great concentration. We will enter and honor Great Lent as intended by the Holy Orthodox Church.
Every day of Great Lent has an intended purpose. Every day of Great Lent has specific services. Every day of Great Lent has particular Scripture readings.
Regardless of our physical location, as long as we have presence of mind, we can actively honor and participate in Great Lent. I believe in the book The Way of a Pilgrim there is a citation attributed to St. John Chrysostom saying we can set up an altar to God in our hearts at any place we happen to be.
If we want to pray, no one can stop us. If we want to honor God in our lives, no one or no activity can prevent us. Each person chooses whether he or she will honor God in the way he or she lives. Each person chooses the way and degree to which he or she will honor God.
The Holy Apostle Paul, speaking to the Corinthians, said with great conviction, "If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty." (I Cor.15:14). Great Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Jesus Christ's Resurrection. On Pascha the eternal truth is proclaimed with the greatest of joy: Hristos Voskrese! Vaistinu Voskrese! Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
We experience the death and resurrection of Christ at Holy Baptism. We come to know better the death of Christ and His Resurrection during this journey to Pascha. We concentrate on the great suffering of Christ. We concentrate on the greatest of sacrifices of Christ. We concentrate on His Resurrection.
We can have not greater honor than to be honored with the Name of Christ. We can ascend to no greater heights than to unity with Christ. In Christ is complete fulfillment. In Christ is the wholeness of life. In Christ is found the definition of life. In Christ is found the purpose of life.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."(Jn. 10:10) This is a reference to life in God's Kingdom, offered to us by Christ Himself.1
If we seek the Kingdom of God, we must be on good terms with God, We must be on good terms with our family members, with our friends and the people we meet in daily life.
When we deal with the pressures of daily life, the pressures at home and at work in present day society, we sometimes do harm to our relationships with family members, friends or people we meet. We do harm to our relationship with God when we do harm with our relationship with others.
It is important to always keep in mind the words of St.John the Evangelist and Theologian. St. John wrote: "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doe not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen." (I Jn.4:20)
As professed Orthodox Christians on this Sunday of Forgiveness, entering into Great Lent, let us fervently pray to God for guidance in repairing relationships we have with others. Let us pray to for wholeness with God. Let us pray for unity with God. Let us pray to experience the love and forgiveness of God.
Drawing near to God in Great Lent takes place by heeding the messages of the services of Great Lent. Drawing near to God during Great Lent involves casting aside the unimportant things that clutter our life and vision and prevent us from living the Orthodox Christian life.
Great Lent is a time to return to the life in Christ. The days of Great Lent provide structure to help us in our weakness. We draw strength from God each day. Only from God do we get strength. Bodily strength originates with God. All good things originate with God.
The more we think about God, the more we will come to realize our dependency on God. Let us take time to thank God during Great Lent for the blessings received. We may take the blessings of God for granted. So many blessings come to us.
The greatness of God and the goodness of God exceeds our ability to fully comprehend. Taking time and expending the effort to thank God is the least we can do for being abundantly blessed.
Words in the Epistle to the Hebrews provide strength for the arduous and joyful lenten journey. In Hebrews (12:1) we read: "Let us lay aside every weight and sin which so easily ensares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."
1The Orthodox Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1993, p. 240.