March 14, 2016

The Purpose of Great Lent (Archim. Alexios of Xenophontos)

By Archimandrite Alexios,
Abbot of Xenophontos Monastery, Mount Athos


Holy and Great Lent is a spiritual arena for the virtues, a time of repentance and prayer, watchfulness and sorrow, a period of fasting, purification of the soul and forgiveness.

This entire blessed period is a sacred journey, which is annually presented by our Holy Church, for every believer who seeks to journey together with Christ the Savior, to rise with Him and share in His eternal divine Kingdom.

Our Church is like an affectionate mother, with her salvific Mysteries, her presanctified Divine Liturgies, her solemn Vespers, her popular Salutations to the Most Holy Theotokos, the great Complines, the Great Canon of repentance, and she comes to awaken us and invites us to exercise temperance, prayer and beneficence, on the path of soul-saving repentance.

Great Lent has this sacred purpose and reminds us of these things daily with the sacred hymns of the Triodion: "It is time of sorrow and repentance, alienation from wickedness, and temperance of the passions, therefore let us eagerly cut off the works of evil we produce" (Monday Matins of Cheesefare). The struggle against evil and sin requires repentance, the rejection of wickedness, control of the passions and detachment from evil works. Those who long for God will enter into this struggle and thus they will become shareholders of the final victory.

The necessity to "cleanse ourselves of all the filthiness of the flesh and spirit" is a basic desire of every true Christian, and this is given to us by the All-Holy Spirit:

- when we bear fruits worthy of repentance,

- when we provide forgiveness to our brethren,

- when we control our undisciplined thoughts with the power of prayer,

- when we avoid criticism and condemnation of others,

- when we are merciful to the poor and help those who suffer,

- when we partake of the Divine Mysteries and

- when we pray on behalf of all people.

This is how the peace of God comes and awards our hearts and thoughts with the divine presence and grace.

Especially these days the hymns of our Church elevate us, being adorned with exquisite and divinely-inspired hymns, which were composed and delivered to the Church by our Holy and God-bearing Fathers with faith and reverence to the glory of the Triune God and the honor and praise of our Saints.

A special place in the hymnological poetry of our Church belongs to the Lady and Mistress of the world, the Most Holy Theotokos Mary. The Theotokia, the Theotokaria, the Supplication Canons to the Theotokos, the hymns of the services of the feasts of the Mother of God, all these compositions of our Holy Fathers who loved the Theotokos and the hymnographers expressed the riches of the Mother of God's supplications on behalf of the human race, as well as the deep reverence, faith and love of the faithful towards the All-Hymned Mother of God and mother of the world.

My Elder would urge us to daily say the Salutations to our Panagia to the glory and honor of her holy name and for our spiritual benefit and comfort.

Watchfulness and the invocation of the name of God and His Mother the Panagia is a light-bearing virtue, which generates light and joy in our lives. And all the more our existence becomes fermented with spiritual asceticism and prayer, as much as we prepare ourselves, as much as we endure God's trials, as much as we sense our sins, so much will the grace of God come and dwell within us, and purify our nous and our hearts from an evil conscience.

This entire blessed struggle is crowned with the joy of the Resurrection, which is not only a Paschal joy, but we will share in heavenly goods still in this life.

I pray that the difficulties of this present time will be turned into blessings for our country and the entire world. And in these sacred days of Great Lent, which begin with the grace of God, we will intensify our prayers to our Merciful God and our Panagia, as we do here on the Holy Mountain, and that each of us will experience our personal transformation through repentance, that we may be provided with a surplus of mercy, as our Lord says, for the humble and simple and obedient faithful, that we may be made worthy of the joy of the Resurrection.

A good and blessed Lent!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.