By Sergei V. Bulgakov
During this week the holy Church continues to exhort us to fasting, prayer, penance, charity and other efforts of virtue, opening also to the true self these ascetic efforts.
In the hymns for this week the holy Church chants:
“Prayer and fasting are a marvelous weapon: this Moses points out to us as the writer of the Law and Elijah shows us in zealous sacrifices”,
“When the men of Nineveh repented, Thou didst deliver them from wrath”,
“Fasting bore Samuel as fruit;”
“Through fasting Samson grew up brave”,
“Elisha after fasting brought the dead child back to life”;
“Through fasting priests and prophets were made perfect”.
“As Christ has taught us in the scriptures, a pure fast means the putting away of sin, the rejection of the passions, love for God, attentiveness in prayer, tears of compunction, and acts of mercy to the poor."
Thus the holy church also appeals to us:
“Let us keep a true fast before the Lord: let us abstain not only from food but from angry speech and lying, and from every other passion”,
“Let us keep a spiritual fast: let us loose every bond; let us avoid the stumbling blocks of sin; let us absolve our brothers from their debts, that we too may be forgiven our transgressions.”
“Come let us cleanse ourselves with mercies and compassions for the poor, not trumpeting them, nor revealing our good deeds, but let us not hang on the left hand the right hand business, let us not squander with vanity the fruit of mercies”;
“In this season of repentance, let us stretch out our hands in works of mercy; and then the ascetic struggles of the Fast will bring us to eternal life. For nothing saves the soul so much as generosity to those in need, and almsgiving combined with fasting will deliver a man from death. Let us do all this with gladness, for there is no better way, and it will bring salvation to our souls.”