The Church has a strong program during this fast put by the Fathers
through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which became to the soul a
source of survival and spiritual filling, and to the Church a source
of communal repentance and deep fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ
in His fast…for Christ fasted for us and with us– and certainly He is
a partner with each fasting soul.
The monks used to take this
opportunity of the holy fast to leave their monasteries to the
wilderness in solitude and in the fullness of the company of the Lord
Jesus and the fellowship of His Holy Spirit. At the end of Lent they
returned to their monasteries (as was recorded for us in the story of
Saint Mary the Egyptian and her meeting with Saint Zosima the priest).
addition, the Church considered the Great Lent a dedication program
for the teaching of catechumens who were admitted to the faith, and
who at Easter were baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity-that is
they were buried and resurrected with Christ. The procession which the
Church conducts, these days for the newly baptized baby was in the
past the procession of Resurrection which the catechumens experienced
at their baptism and resurrection in the Lord at Easter.
days the Church as a body practices absolute abstention, daily
liturgies, the life of repentance and contrition before God. We can
find through meditation on the Sunday readings a strong spiritual
program for every soul, which may be titled, “The Journey to the Bosom
of the Father.”
The journey starts in a frank and clear
invitation in the gospel of the preparation Sunday for the entry into
the closet for a dialogue with the Father.
1. Preparation Sunday (Matt. 6:1-8)
you pray enter into your closet,…shut your door, pray to your Father
which is in secret….” Also if you give alms or fast that also should
be to the Father in secret….
The Point of Departure of the Journey
Church declares to us that the closet is the point of departure of the
journey of Lent. If it does not start at the closet then the journey
of our fast has deviated from its true course. The fact that the
Church starts the fast by directing us to the closet means that the
fast is not only related to the flesh but it is related more to the
spirit and to Kingdom of God. The week of preparation is the week
of the closet.
Close Your Door
The journey starts after
closing the door-the door that looks at the world. Then there opens
before us another door that faces heaven, “Our father who art in
heaven”, “I looked, and, behold a door was opened in heaven.” (Rev
4:1) “Fasting is not a fetter or a prison to the senses but a soaring
without hindrance towards contemplation of God.”
Pray to your Father
Church has set a standard to the level of faith of the catechumens
before they are allowed to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. The
standard is the church continues teaching the catechumens about the
Lord’s prayer, starts with “Our Father….”, and at the moment they
perceive and comprehend the paternity of God to them, they are
entitled to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.
Your Father Who Sees in Secret
is the secret of the prayer of the closet which the Church perceived
so allotted to it the deepest of prayers like the prayer of the five
wise virgins awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom, and the prayer of
the fallen won feet of the Lord Jesus (Prayer of the closet of
“Matins”). Where in the closet we discover our sins…and we hold the
feet of the Lord to free our feet the prodigal road, and we taste the
love of God, and learn contrition, and thus the goal of the journey of
our fast becomes the withdrawal of the soul into itself (in secret)
where the Lord purifies it with His blood and dedicates her a temple
for Him and adorns her with His talents so that she may participate
with the wise virgins in the meeting of the Bridegroom.
the journey is with the soul, it should be done in secret. The
relationship between the human soul and Christ, is an invisible
relationship that begins in the chamber. So fasting is accompanied by
a reduction in talking and visits and by concentrating on spiritual
readings and attending the Divine Liturgy.
Heavenly Father is calling you to a holy participation with Him in
secret, through which you may start your fast, your prayers, and your
almsgivings. So beware of negligence.
Practice: The practice in
the week of preparation is the prayer of the chamber and the worship
in secret which will continue with us all through after the period of
2. Surrender of Life to the Heavenly Father: (Matt. 6:24-34)
gospel of the first Sunday of Lent calls for the surrender of life to
the Father. “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat…nor
yet for the body, what you shall wear….do not worry about tomorrow.”
The reason for not worrying is that “your heavenly Father knows that
you have of all these things.” (Matt. 6:32).
The practice of
this week is a call to a secure life in the care of the Father and the
carrying out of what comes in the verse, “Do not worry about
tomorrow,” physically, mentally and spiritually.
commandment is full of risks but its assurance is the care of the
Father. The woman who gave the two mites was risking her meal. During
the fast, Satan wages his war by convincing us that we are risking the
necessities of the body and causes us to worry about our health.
Likewise, in charity, there is a risk of wealth.
In this week, we experience the complete surrender to the care of the Father and to His commandment.
3. Why does God forget us if He is our Father? (Matt. 4: 1-10)
gospel of the Second Sunday deals with the temptation of doubting
God’s paternity to us, “If you are the son of God-why does He leave
you hungry? Why does God allow the presence of disease, failure and
the death of our beloved?”
Practice: It is our duty this week to
examine our faith in the love of the Father who gave His Son for us.
Our faith should surpass all temptations and emotions. Faith in the
Father should be a faith that fortifies us against the temptation of
the Adversary, the hardships of this world and the sufferings and
desires of the body.
4. Repentance in the Father’s bosom (Luke 15:11-32)
in Christianity is different from any other repentance; it is the
return of the son to his Father and the Father falling on the neck of
His son to embrace him and kiss him (Luke 15:20). This is the gospel
of the third Sunday.
The Father’s paternity to us is not because
of our righteousness, but because of His paternity to his children,
especially the sinners.
The Father’s paternity for us
challenges all our sins, our failures, our betrayal of His love and
our mistreatment of His name.
Practice: Brother, do not
permit this week to go by without a true repentance and resorting to
the Father’s embrace….Examine this in your chamber and taste the
Father’s embrace and His kisses which are reserved only for those who
repent. This is the week of repentance in the Father’s bosom, the
repentance of the whole Church…the communal repentance.
5. Worship of the Father in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:1-42)
next step after repentance is worship of the Father Who accepted and
loved me and cleansed me from my sins and put me in His bosom.
Contrition of the spirit and submission to the Father and the love of
frequent prostrations in worship are the expressions of our love for
Him who opened His arms for us sinners and kissed us. This is the end
of the road of repentance in the Father’s bosom, and this is the
sweetest fruit of the chamber and which the Father gives us in secret.
Church, inspired by the Spirit, stresses in the period of Lent the use
of prostrations during private prayers and in the Divine Liturgy (At
the Offering of Incense after the readings of the prophets).
The practice of this week is to worship the Father in spirit and truth “for such the Father seeks to worship Him.” (John 4:23)
6. Bethesda and Baptism (John 5:1-18)
Gospel of the fifth Sunday talks about Bethesda which symbolizes
Baptism. We, the crowds of Christians, were beside it sick, lame,
blind and paralyzed; suffering every spiritual sickness. The Angel
that moves the water symbolizes the Holy Spirit which comes down on
the water of Baptism.
This is our share in Christ: those who are baptized have ever in the Father even if they have been sick for 38 years.
practice of this week is to hope and never to despair—Baptism has
given us the grace of sonship and children are never disappointed in
their hopes in the love of the Father.
7. Sonship is a Spiritual Enlightenment (John 9:1-41)
The last Sunday in Lent is the Sunday of Baptism, during which we read the gospel of the man born blind.
“I was blind and now I see.” This is our everlasting experience as
children of the Heavenly Father. We were blind and He opened our sight
so we beheld miracles of His laws and we saw what the prophets longed
to see, and He gave us understanding of the Scriptures.
Baptism means washing (in the pool of Siloam), so we become pure.
Repentance is a continuous washing, so we may see clearly. Repentance
is a continuation of Baptism and it is the means through which we can
see Christ clearly all our life. Lasting repentance cleans our heart,
renews the intellect, protects the contrite soul in the obedience of
the Father, and through repentance, we can discover all the graces and
secrets of the Heavenly Father.
8. The Kingdom of the Beloved Son (Mt. 21:1-17; Mk. 11:1-11; Lk. 19:29-48; Jn. 12:12-19)
week begins with the entrance of Christ to rule Jerusalem, riding on a
donkey and ends by Him ruling from the Cross on Calvary where He draws
all to Him—all the children to rule with Him in the Kingdom of His