To The Reverend Clergy, Monastics, Parish Councils, Philoptochos Societies, Choirs, Youth, and all the Faithful of the Holy Metropolis of San Francisco,

"Let us fast an acceptable fast that is pleasing to God." — Hymn of the Triodion for the First Day of Great Lent

Dearly Beloved,

With this prayer and admonition I greet you as we begin this period of fasting and Great Lent. The Church has named the first day of Lent “Pure/Clean Monday”. It is expected that Lent gives us the opportunity for an inner catharsis in all things. Our thoughts, our feelings, our actions - all need cleansing having already polluted and stained our souls and our daily lives. It is the pastoral concern of the Church that we be given every opportunity, through prayer and fasting, for self-concentration and restrain, first, for the spiritual benefit of our souls and, second, for the benefit of all society which directly or indirectly we affect.

Great Lent is not simply a forty-day period in the calendar year which prepares us for the Great Feast of Pascha. Rather, it is a period which, if properly adhered to, could and should prepare us for personal inner renewal. Our Church knows the human psyche - our enthusiasm, our emotions, our passions. The Church recognizes that enthusiasm easily wanes and that feelings of remorse and repentance become nothing more than fleeting spiritual reflections. It is difficult for man to restrain his passions which persistently weaken his capacity for spiritual growth. This is what Christ had in mind when in speaking to His disciples said, “This generation will not pass but through the power of prayer and fasting.” This is the true meaning of Lent.

Our Church offers us these two antidotes to the power of evil, with the belief that only through continuous and consistent prayer and fasting we can regain our inner spiritual qualities. It is these qualities which protect us from further failings and prevent evil from dominating our lives. Through prayer we are taught that the hand of God can guide us in our earthly journey. We are accountable to Him on how we live our lives. By fasting we are given the potential to conquer our desires, and weaknesses and the capacity for self-discipline.  Even from a negative viewpoint, when we realize how little we fast and pray, there is much benefit and much to be learned. It is easy for us to use common excuses of our daily pressures at home and at work. But when will we cease using these rationalizations which in the final analysis are mistakes committed against our own spiritual welfare? There are no substitutes for prayer and fasting. Fasting is not simply a denial from certain foods. It is a response to the cravings of the flesh; it is our only opportunity to subordinate our weaknesses and passions to the will of God within us.

It is for this reason that I began this letter with the exhortation that “our fasting be pleasing to the Lord”. Let us then focus our attention so that our fasting is acceptable in the eyes of God. Let this period of Great Lent renew within us the essence of our responsibility and task so that we may, with the help of God, attain the salvation of our souls.

With my warmest prayers for a most meaningful period of prayer and fasting, I greet you in the Lord and remain,

With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco