March 14, 2021

Homily for Cheesefare Sunday (Archimandrite George Kapsanis)

By Archimandrite George Kapsanis,
Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos

Today is the Sunday before Great Lent. Tomorrow Great Lent begins, the period of fasting, asceticism and the most intensive prayer. The Church today reminds us of the exile of the First-formed from Paradise. While in Paradise they were considered happy, because they lived with love, loving God and loving one another, when they let selfishness enter into them with their disobedience to their Heavenly Father, they could no longer live in Paradise. Why is this? If Paradise is love for God and for people, turning away from love is exile from Paradise. So as soon as they replaced the law of love with the law of selfishness, they fell from the Grace that God had given them. As the hymns of our Church beautifully say, while at first they were dressed in a God-woven outfit - and this outfit was the Grace of God - as soon as they sinned, this beautiful outfit they wore was removed from them and they were left naked. And then they were dressed in another outfit, which did not look beautiful and brilliant, but looked awful and frightful. This outfit was death. Because once they sinned, that is, they removed love and God out of their lives, it was natural for them to die. The First-formed would not have died if they had not sinned. As soon as they sinned, they began to enter the process of decay and death. And, as the Holy Fathers say very well, how could it be possible for a man not to die when he was separated from God? God is the true life of man. If you separate yourself from God, it is inevitable you will die. ("God is life, the absence of life is death. Therefore by departing from God, Adam prepared death. As it is written: 'For behold they that distance themselves from thee shall perish'." - Basil the Great, That God is Not the Cause of Evils) How can you live without true life?

And then begins the great tribulation of the human race; the trials and torments of men begin. And we today are also in exile; we are not in Paradise. But we have a special blessing, that our Heavenly Father had mercy on us; He sent us His Only Begotten Son, our Savior Christ, to bring us back to Paradise. And in order for Christ to bring us back to Paradise, He had to become a human being, He had to be humbled, He had to be crucified, He had to be resurrected. Now we all know the way that will bring us back to Paradise. This road is the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.

And we, if we share in our life in the Cross of Christ, we also participate in His Resurrection, and from now on we can taste the truest joy, the taste of Paradise. We are not as desperate as people who do not have Christ. We have hope, that Christ opened Paradise and we will enter it. And not only will we be able to in the future, but from now on we can have the joy and the hope that Paradise belongs to us. That is why true Christians, no matter how many trials and tribulations they have in their lives, have a deep joy, because they know that they are destined for Paradise, for the Kingdom of Heaven.

But Paradise is gained with each of our struggles. We must strive for Paradise, we must defeat our egoism, let the love of God reign within us, and then we will be worthy of Paradise, and then we will inherit Paradise. And Great Lent has this meaning: to help us with asceticism, with fasting, with prayer, to fight against our passions and our egoism, and thus to have hope that we will inherit Paradise, that we will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let us gladly welcome the Holy and Great Lent, which will bring us closer to Christ, which will fill us with spiritual joy and help us to love very much Christ, God the Father and our fellow man.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.