Catechetical Homily On the Commencement of Holy and Great Lent
By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church
Grace and Peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Together with our Prayer, Blessing, and Forgiveness
Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,
Tomorrow, we enter the period of Holy and Great Lent. In the Lenten vespers of Forgiveness chanted this evening, we shall hear the sacred hymnographer urging us to “begin the time of fasting with joy, submitting ourselves to spiritual struggle” in preparing to welcome the great Passion and joyful Resurrection of our divine-human Lord.
Therefore, what is demanded is a joyful disposition in order to embrace fervently the spiritual struggle of this period of contrition in purification and prayerfulness. Fasting, abstinence, frugality, restriction of personal desires, intense prayer, confession, and similar ascetic elements are essential to the period of Great Lent and should not be considered burdensome obligations or unbearable duties that result in despondency or dejection. When doctors recommend diet or exercise as necessary prerequisites for psychosomatic health and vigor, the first advice they offer by way of a mandatory condition of success is a pleasant mental disposition, which includes smiling and positive thinking. The same also applies to the spiritual period of fasting that opens before us. Great Lent should be regarded as an invaluable divine gift. It is a sacred time of divine grace, which seeks to detach us from things material, lowly and corrupt in order to attract us toward things superior, wholesome and spiritual. It is a unique opportunity to remove from the soul every passion, to rid the body of everything superfluous, harmful and mortal. Accordingly, then, it is a time of immense rejoicing and gladness. A genuine feast and exhilaration!