“Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage. So, clothed in raiment of light, let us hasten to the Holy Resurrection on the third day, that shines upon the world with the glory of eternal life” (Matins, Monday of the First Week of Great Lent—The Lenten Triodion).
These are the words that our Holy Orthodox Church sings to inaugurate the Great Fast. We have high a calling from the outset: to begin joyfully and shine with the commandments, love, prayer, holiness and courage! Armed in this fashion, we will be able to travel the journey of Great Lent to enter into the joy of the Resurrection of Christ. In His Church, the Lord grants us the tools to make this journey possible. In order to begin joyfully, we are encouraged to participate in the Sacrament of Holy Confession and attempt to attend the additional church services: Presanctified Liturgy, The Akathist and The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, and to keep the Fast.
All of these tools will foster our dependence on God and not our selves, so that we may amend and make right our relationship with God, others, ourselves and all of creation. This is true freedom. This is the heart of Great Lent. So, as a Church Community, enlisting God’s help, let each of us strive to do what he is able. Let us ask ourselves, “What can I give up this year that I did not last year? What church service can I add into my schedule that I did not do last year?” Finally, and most importantly, “What almsgiving can I do this year that will be a pleasing sacrifice to God and a service to my neighbor in need?”
“Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ear fast by not listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers? May He who came to the world to save sinners, strengthen us to complete the fast with humility and have mercy on us” (St. John Chrysostom on Fasting).
—Kh. Christina Reimann, Church School Director