Please accept my sincere good wishes for Great Lent! God bless all for the benefit of the soul who pass this field, keeping a prayerful mindset, at peace with their neighbors and in the joy of the Lord. May the Lord help all during Lent to grant something new in their spiritual dispensation, useful for salvation.
These days we are helped a great deal by of worship.And the prayer texts, and repentant, softened ringing chants, and the darkened atmosphere of the church leads us on the right spiritual way. Listening to church service in these days, as we are entering a period of time, in peaceful prayer brings us closer to God, away from the bustle and turmoil of the sea of life. Establish in Lent, to try to prevail in the soul of repentance, a quiet, prayerful mood – this is a great inner work, and the loving Mother Church makes it easier for us in this task, offering the first week of Lent excellent services with Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Saturday of St Theodore and the week of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. We all love these services, we come to church for the first week with a special festive mood and, reverently reading and listening to chants, feel ourselves as if in the medium of the righteous. And this feeling is not wrong, because at this moment in the best way we see ourselves as located within the Church, and thus – in the same church body, in which reside the saints of God, Angels, Archangels, God Himself and His Immaculate Mother.
All this is good and very comforting, but in these very days, I can not but think of our brothers and sisters who are not able to be present in the church service. Alas, in our church many communities have neither a priest nor a church. For them, the first days of Lent, is far different than for us. No ceremonial services, no sad songs, no dark attire … The First Week of Lent is for them – all the same everyday, no different from the previous and the next. All the hard work to restructure the domestic peace, on the penitential mindset and expectation of Pascha, these people carry themselves without the help of melodious songs guards, no daily contact with parishioners of one mind, without frequent confession and communion.
You, brothers and sisters, who at home are reading the Great Canon of St. Andrew and prayer for St. Ephraim the Syrian, who are in difficult circumstances and can not enjoy the prayer, I want to say today: do not be disheartened! None of your repentant sighs, no tear or a small part is unknown to the Lord. Do not be discouraged, because times change, and we believe in the help the Son of God, who will not leave his Church and who arranges the splendor of His worship. Do not be discouraged because your inner work is great before God, and your brief warm sighs sometimes reach higher than standing during a long church service, without proper attention. Staying at home praying, you are also like those standing in the church, are among the saints, also, and perhaps more, because your labor and sorrow about the impossibility of being in the house is not hidden from God and draw His mercy. I say this not only to communities that have no priest and the church, but also to the parishioners, who, because of high employment, or other difficult circumstances can not often be at the service. Do not be discouraged, do not argue with the neighbors and do not leave your duties in those days, because for the Orthodox any business should be conducted as before God. Not being able to stay in the temple, you may be better and more clearly understand the true essence of Lent, which is not exhausted in devotions.
It is good to enjoy the reading of the church and singing, but only if we take from the penitential service the firm intention not to sin, to not insult, to not be lazy, to live as if every minute we walked in the sight of God. If this is not so, if our affection does not turn into an active love for people and the determination to live according to conscience, then, alas, brothers and sisters, in this case, we have not succeeded, and the delight and tenderness were not spiritual, but superficial. That’s why I said I did not have the possibility to stay in these days in the temple and fled home prayer sometimes more clearly aware of that post – this time purely internal feat, one that makes us not too much compared to other people for any external signs . And people notice our inner [person], who is not wearing the dark apparel, [spending frequent] days in the temple and [eating] lean food, but for our special kindness, attentive to neighbors, a willingness to help and forgive, for a conscientious attitude to business and responsibilities, and most importantly – for joy which shines in our eyes and warms as it is others.
It is this joy of the Lord, that will never leave this orthodox in any difficult circumstances, and I wish you all to gain and increase of it in the days of Lent. It [this joy] is beyond our difficult circumstances, above our ability or inability to be in the Temple, above the hustle and our experiences, because of its homeland – in the very Heaven. Amen.