Monday, March 7, 2011

Lenten Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrius of New York

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are truly blessed and filled with anticipation as we enter into the holy and reflective season of the Great Fast. It is blessed because it is an intense time of prayer, fasting, worship and service, which leads us into greater communion with our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. It is also a time of reflection when we examine our entire being - mind, body, and soul - and seek spiritual victory through the power and grace of God over anything that separates us from Him.

The Holy and Great Fast is also a time of spiritual preparation and growth. During the Triodion period we have heard the words of our Lord in the parables of the Publican and Pharisee, the Prodigal Son, and the Last Judgment. Through this focus on repentance, grace, and forgiveness, we have been challenged to consider the spiritual state of our lives and our readiness to stand before our Lord when He comes in His glory.

Now we enter into a quiet and contemplative time that helps us to grow from where we are into a deeper relationship with God, toward a greater understanding of His wisdom and truth, to heights of joy and peace that we have not known, and into an unhindered awareness of the needs of others. This is a time of spiritual prosperity.

It is a time, as in the parable of the talents in the Gospel of Matthew, when we take the treasure of our lives and souls given to us by our God, and labor diligently to strengthen our spiritual well being. As good and faithful servants we strive through worship and prayer to attain higher levels of spiritual maturity in the kingdom of God. It is a time when we deny our selfish desires through fasting, overcoming the danger of following the attitude of the lazy and unprofitable servant, and heed the words of our Lord, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).

The days of the Great Fast which are before us have been given to us by our Lord for our spiritual prosperity. We have the opportunity for a tremendous investment of prayer, contemplation, and service which will lead us to an abundant harvest of spiritual gifts and blessings. Use this time through the services of the Great Fast to open the spiritual eyes of your hearts and minds, to be watching and ready to receive the Bridegroom and enter into the great feast. Cultivate and nurture your lives through daily prayer and engagement with the resources of our faith, so that when the Master returns He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (25:23). In offering and service to the needs of others, be a living witness of the love of Christ, so that when the Lord comes in His glory He will say to each of us, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (25:34).

At the inception of this holy and blessed season, I offer to you my prayers and deepest wishes for a time of spiritual growth, illumination, and abundant blessings through the presence and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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