Today Lent begins according to Orthodox tradition, a period when, according to the mind of the great Fathers of the universal Church, man is called to ponder his future and reconfirm the eschatological sense of his life.
The fasting that begins today and ends on the day of Our Lord's Resurection, does not mean a rejection of material life, but the submission of material needs in the process that leads the human existence to participate in the holiness of the Lord, as the message that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the faithful suggests.
"This season - says Bartholomew - commences as a salvific preparation for the "great and most sacred Pascha of Christ." We are referring to Holy and Great Lent, which we must live "by offering prayer and seeking forgiveness," in order truly to taste Pascha "with all the saints," by becoming "saints," by confessing before God and people that we are "clay vessels" that are shattered on a daily basis by the evil one, always "falling and rising." That is to say, we must admit our human imperfection and failure, as well as our insignificance before God, by repenting and repeating day-in and day-out, at all times and in all places - even as we are made "holy" through baptism - that "one is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father".
"Our Creator wants us to be in communion with Him - continues Bartholomew - in order to taste His grace, which is to participate in His sanctity. Communion with God is a life of repentance and holiness; whereas estrangement from God, or sin, is identified by the Church Fathers with "evil of the heart." Sin is not natural, but derives from evil choice".
Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch adds," is a quality that belongs to the Lord as "the one, who offers and is offered, who receives and is distributed." The celebrant of the Sacrament of the Divine Eucharist".
"Our Church which aspires exclusively and solely to our salvation, "rightfully proclaimed" one season as a period of special prayer and supplication in order to calm the passions of our soul and body ".
"Lent is a period of preparation and repentance as the voice of our conscience, which is internal and inexpressible, our personal judgment. When it finds us doing wrong, it protests vehemently inasmuch as "nothing in the world is more violent than our conscience".
"Thus - continues Bartholomew - each of us must be at peace with our conscience in order that "we may offer a mystical sacrifice in the fire of our conscience," surrendering our passions and offering them as an oblation of love toward our fellow human beings, just as the Lord gave Himself up "for the life and salvation of the world." Only then will forgiveness rise from the tomb for us as well; and only then shall we live in mutual respect and love, far from the horrific crimes that we witness plaguing the entire world today".
Finally, the Ecumenical Patriarch concludes his message with an appeal as the spiritual father of all our Orthodox faithful throughout the world, "Let us rather walk with God's grace in order to cleanse our conscience "with the good option" of repentance in the conviction that heaven and earth, as well as all "things visible and invisible" will ultimately emanate the light of our Lord's resurrection".
25 Feb 2015
Bartholomew I’s Lenten message