Beloved in the Lord,

Great Lent is upon us, and our journey to Pascha has begun. The Church teaches us that these days of the Great Fast are a time for increasing our prayer life both privately and as a church community, abstaining from certain foods, becoming more generous with our philanthropy, and devoting more time to studying the word of God in Holy Scripture and the precepts of our Orthodox Faith. All of these are meant to prepare us for the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which will be joyfully celebrate on April 24.

A significant aspect of our preparation during Great Lent is personal introspection. During these days, we are called to take inventory of our lives and our relationship to God, with our neighbors, and the world around us. It is a time to look into the mirror and examine our souls, literally to “reflect” on their condition. When we take that time what will we see? Will we see only what we want to see or will we be able to look honestly at ourselves? Will we be deluded by our sophistication or our self-justification, or will we accept the reality of our shortcomings?

During the service of Great Compline, we chant, “Lord of the Powers be with us, for in times of distress we have no other help but You. Lord of the Powers, have mercy on us.” This message assures us that through our tribulations, God is there to help us overcome, and to grant us His mercy. What a beautiful gift we are given by the Lord, where He is literally holding us by our hands leading us on our journey to salvation.

We are presently faced with tumultuous times in our world. We see brother killing brother, and we see sophisticated villains devising evil ploys. But amidst all of this comes a ray of hope where we see brother helping brother, and protests for peace and justice. We need to focus on our potential for doing good, and resist the temptation to be lurked into the darkness of sin.

The Church gives us the tools: prayer, worship, sacramental life, especially the Sacrament of Holy Confession, fasting, philanthropy, and study. And Great Lent is the season to pick up these tools and use them. Like spring gardening, the tools can help us soften the soil of our hearts, remove the weeds and the harmful growth, so that we may plant the heaven-approved virtues of life in their place.

Beloved brothers and sisters, when we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in just a few weeks, we will celebrate the triumph of good and love, over evil and hatred. For each of us to experience that triumph more completely, we must work to expel any evil and hatred that dwells in our souls. During our Lenten journey we will hear many statements that are extreme in their darkness and despair about the condition of our souls, yet they are there to challenge to repentance and vigilance, so that when we light our paschal candles at the Resurrection, we can be filled with light and joy.

Kali Tessarakosti! God bless you!