Orthodox America


The Lenten Sacrifice


During Great and Holy Lent we hear the constant message of repentance. Our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, began His public ministry with this message: "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" Why is this message repeated so often during Lent? Because our fallen human nature needs to constantly hear it. We tend to forget God and turn towards the material creation and our own passion. For this reason, God inspired the Church to set apart this season of Lent for repentance and a new spiritual beginning, a season often called the "springtime of the soul."

 

My soul my soul, arise! Why' are you sleeping? The end is drawing' near, and you will be confounded. Awake, then and be watchful, that Christ our God may spare you, who is everywhere present and fills all things. (Kontakion, tone 6)  

We begin Lent by asking everyone for forgiveness. And each day through the course bf Lent we pray in the prayer of St. Ephraim: "O God, help me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother." Even so, how often do we really try to improve our relation with others?

During Lent the Church also devotes more time to divine services, with beautiful and compunctionate hymns that encourage us to be steadfast in our lenten struggles. Likewise, the psalter is read twice each week, not just in order to lengthen the services, but so that we may hear more often the psalms which preach repentance, the power of God, and the need for ceaseless struggle. How often did the Holy Prophet David turn to the Lord when he was beset by enemies from without and his own passions from within? And as many times the Lord delivered him. Should these examples not fill our souls with hope in God's mercy, if only we sincerely repent? "A contrite heart the Lord will not despise."   

I tried with my whole heart to the merciful God, and He heard me from the lowest hell and raised my life out of corruption

Irmos Song 6

  The active Christian life, both monastic and lay, is the Royal Path, a narrow road that leads to Heaven, without veering either to right or to left-the path upon which we are to carry our cross. This is not the path which the world follows-the path of negligence and sloth. The pilgrim traveling the path of salvation must be ready at all times for sacrifice-the sacrifice of self will, ambition, idle talk, and all manner of indulgences. Christ commanded that whoever would follow after Him and take up his cross must first deny himself (Matt. 16:24). Christian! Do you not see with what wisdom the Church has called us to participate in the holy struggle of Great Lent, preparing us to follow Christ. Let us take advantage of this opportunity and rouse ourselves that we may step bravely upon the path of salvation.

Come to your senses, my soul! Consider the deeds you have done, and bring them before your eyes, and pour out the drops of your tear& Boldly tell your thoughts and deeds to Christ, and be acquitted

The Canon of St. Andrew or Crete, read during the first week of Lent, gives examples from the Old and New Testament to encourage us to walk the narrow path to salvation. We hear not only how human nature is fallen, but also how the patriarchs of the Old Testament Church labored and obtained salvation: "Great Moses dwelt in the wilds, my soul. So go and imitate his life, that you may attain by contemplation to the vision of God in the bush." This is aimed not just at monastics, but to the whole Christian Church, because we are all seeking God, and the commandment to seek perfection is given to all,

In the Canon we are also given numerous examples from the New Testament. Here we see that in our sinfulness we belong to the company of robbers and harlots. Like them, let us heed Christ's call to repentance, crying out with heartfelt compunction that He may heal us of our passions and make us meet for the Kingdom of Heaven.  

Have compassion, and save me, have mercy on me, O Son of David, Who didst heal with a word the demoniac. And let Thy voice of under compassion speak to me as to the robber,"Truly I tell you, you will be with Me in Paradise when I rise in My glory.    (Song 9)

And how shall we attain Paradise unless we first purify our hearts? It is for this reason that the Church prescribes fasting, prayer and repentance, forgiveness of others, and all manner or continence as a medicine for our fallen state, It is important For us to strive to do all of these things because these ascetic acts give birth to purity of heart. This is especially needful today, when morality is at a low ebb  As our Saviour says, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." This is a high goal, but the reward for seeking purity is eternal salvation with the resurrected Lord. This is why the first troparion (hymn) of the Paschal Canon says, "Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with the inaccessible light of the Resurrection~"

Let us then labor while it is still day! And let us not become fainthearted, but let us cry out with the words of our Father Andrew:

 Do not require of me fruits worthy of repentance, for my strength is spent in me. Grant me ever a contrite heart and spiritual poverty, that I may offer these guts to Thee as an acceptable sacrifice, O only Saviour.

(song 9)

Father Mark Gomez
St Basil the Great Church
Simpson, Pennsylvania

[_private/oabot.htm]