Our Faith - The Meaning of Great Lent
"All at once the Greeks, the Russians, the Arabs, the Serbs, the Copts, the Armenians, the Ethiopians, one after another.in his own melody sang CHRIST IS RISEN. Coming out of the service (of Resurrection) at dawn, we began to regard everything in the light of the glory of Christ's Resurrection and all appeared different from what it had yesterday; everything seemed better, more expressive, more glorious. Only in the light of the resurrection does life receive meaning. " (Bishop Nikolai of Ochrid describing the Easter service in Jerusalem)
Orthodoxy is above all the Church of the Resurrection. For the RISEN CHRIST is its very foundation; its "one and only basis for our Christian life and hope." Unfortunately, many of our people do not fully experience this profound joy of Pascha. This is because they fail to embrace fully a necessary time of preparation. For without an "expectant preparation" the deeper meaning of the Easter services will be lost.
To assist us in our preparation for the FEAST OF FEASTS, our Church has set aside ten weeks in what is called the period of the TRIODION. First come the four Sundays or twenty-two days, then six weeks or forty days of the Great Fast of Lent; and finally Holy Week. And to balance the seven weeks of Lent and Holy Week, our Church has set aside a corresponding season of fifty days which end with the feast of Pentecost.
The aim of Lent is found in three words: FASTING, PRAYER and ALMSGIVING. All three are necessary if we are to achieve any spiritual growth. To abstain from certain foods without an increased prayer life and performance of good works is destructive. Bishop Kallistos of England states that such a fast "leads not to contrition and joyfulness but to pride, inward tension and irritability."
Lent is not a time of gloom but of springtime joyfulness. Just as the unfolding of the inimitable glory of spring brings joy to one weary of winter, so too this blessed period. While we should grieve for our many sins and repent for same, we should not lose sight of our destination; the triumphant and joyful RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD.
On this eve of the Great Fast, I fervently pray that we faithfully and sincerely keep the blessed requirements of these most-holy days of purification as prescribed by our Church. As we abstain from unnecessary food let us also pray with increased zeal participating in both the Sunday and week-day services. Finally, let us also perform works of compassion.
- Father James