April 13, 2013

Great Lent and Its Opportunities

March 14, 2010

By Monk Moses the Athonite

The period before Pascha which we are going through gives birth, or should give birth, to a special feeling within us. The most beautiful and solemn hymnography of this period, the many liturgical occasions, and the lenten fast are calling us to assemble ourselves. To stoop within us, to figure out our problems, to self-evaluate towards a sincere repentance.

Many people do not want to acknowledge the meaning of these days, continuing along in their monotonous life. Although they say life is tiring them, they do not take one step towards an essential change.

They do strict diets, but they don't fast.

They go to psychologists, and sit in front of the television for hours, but they don't go to a confessor nor to church.

People today do not want to give, but only to get, without toil or personal sacrifice. We are afraid to look ourselves in the eyes. We systematically avoid this, causing anxiety within ourselves.

Great Lent works like an X-Ray machine, like a photographic camera, like a mirror. Somehow we consider it repulsive, because it reveals our hidden reality.

Today’s spirit of consumerism, comfort and pride leaves man a prisoner of the many unnecessary things that have filled his life. Great Lent is a halt to this routine and a transfiguration. A prayer said in the divine services during this entire period hundreds of times, written by Ephraim the Syrian, urges us to abandon sloth, curiosity, love of power and idle talk and gain wisdom, humilty, patience and love. This beautiful and meaningful prayer ends by asking God: "Grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother." That is, to abandon gossip, over-analyzing, and the strict and continuous judgement of others, and to turn within ourselves, correcting our own mistakes.

Great Lent wants us to focus on ourselves and contribute to the healing of our spiritual diseases, which darken our minds and make our lives difficult and bitter.

If we reach this self-knowledge and repentance, then Great Lent will not be a gloomy and barren time for us, or a simple time to fulfill our "moral duties", but an opportunity to soften our hardened hearts, which will lead us to the love for people and the love for God.

Excessive rationalizing of the difficult times we live in, strives to keep us away from everything mystical, hesychastic, sacred, mysterious, supra-logical and supernatural. The result of this state has come to light. Everywhere there is melancholy and despair reigns, afflicting many. It is time to see from the depth of our hearts that we have become estranged, and the time is ripe to return to the cradle of Crucified Love.

Often during the time of Great Lent we encounter temptations, trials, tribulations and failures. These are to mature us, to help us acquire balance and a child-like nature. Let us not forget that the life of the Christian is one of the Cross. Without crucifixion there will come no resurrection.

Great Lent is a beautiful and good time for preparation, a semi-darkened corridor leading us to a chamber full of light. The foundation of this preparatory time are prayer and fasting. But prayer and fasting without humility and love bares no fruit. Fasting and prayer aim to temper our selfishness.

Let us not lose this opportunity offered once again by the Great Fast, as we are approaching its end. In the Church, our problems find their solution. The cold winter is followed by spring. The Triodion is followed by the Pentecostarion. The clouds are never permanent, but afterwards the sunshine is much better. And now, as a wonderful troparion says, it is the "time of repentance and the hour for prayer."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos