A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU RETURN – It’s the Soul purpose of Great Lent
That incredible time of Great Lent is nearing again this year with Clean Monday on March 18. In fact Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians began Lent on February 13, with an early Easter, March 31. Our Pascha this year will be celebrat- ed on May 5. So, just what is the purpose of Great Lent? It’s “soul” purpose is returning to God. It is a return to the original beauty in which we were created – a beauty of union in harmo- ny with God and then with one another. The consequences of the Ancestral Sin were the fall of humankind, a distortion of that original beauty, with a focus on the self and the material realm first – rather than God and the spiritual realm. It is a sep- aration first from God and in turn from one another. This sepa- ration from the “Life-Giver,” consequentially brings about death. The ultimate death, however, is not physical, it is spiritu- al. If not healed, this separation brings about the destruction of our soul.
And so it is that God, in God’s great mercy and love offers healing for our souls. First, through the “Word” – the Holy Scriptures, the prophets and the law and then the Word, Him- self enters into the world to reclaim our fallen race, by becom- ing one of us, taking our sins upon His shoulders, dying upon the cross – destroying the power of death and the evil one – and resurrecting – reclaiming the original beauty of the human race. And finally, by sending the Holy Spirit into the Church – the Body of believers to complete and live out this reclamation project of Return and re-union.
Great Lent is that annual re-telling of the story of our human condition and invitation to re-connect with God and our fellow humans. Of course, the yeoman’s portion of the work has been accomplished by our Merciful and Loving God, yet our free-will response, is a necessary component to our souls’ salvation. The central themes to our free-will response to God’s invitation are:
- A desire to be with God. This desire is predicated upon
humility and an attitude of gratitude, a realization that our very life and all the good that entails are gifts from God. We are not self-sufficient. We need God to live;
- A resolve – a choice to return to the One who gives us life. This return requires a change of focus and direction from our self and the material realm, primarily to God and the
spiritual realm. This is against our fallen human tendency. This is repentance. It is understood in our Orthodox life as a life long journey often entailing hard work;
Re-union with God. Sharing with Him in the joy of Pascha through which His Life-giving Resurrection is enlivened in us not only at the end of our life but in the midst of it.
The three legged stool of the Great Lenten journey is Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Prayer nourishes our desire and helps us re-connect with the Life-Giver, our Loving Lord. Fasting assists us in the turning primarily away from our selfish focus and to God. It involves struggle and commitment, perhaps a war. It is waged first in the physical realm because it is precisely there that we are too focused. The result of that over focus is a sick soul. Healing comes through re-focusing, returning to God. And finally, Almsgiving helps us to re-direct our focus to our fellow human beings. By loving “the least of God’s brothers and sis- ters,” we love him. (MT. 25:39-41)
Our Lenten Pilgrimage draws near. Let’s use the beauti- ful tools offered at this time of year to Return to our Loving Lord, dying more to our self-focus and living more in the Life-giving Presence, death on the Cross and Glorious and Life Giving Vic- tory in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Have a blessed Great Lent with our Lord’s Grace and blessings,
Listed on the following pages are Great Lenten opportu- nities for prayer, scriptural and spiritual readings, repentance and confession, retreats, charity and acts of kindness.
THE LENTEN PRAYER OF ST. EPHRAIM
(Said daily in Great Lent)
Lord and Master of my life, de- liver me from the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and gossip. (Prostration)
Rather, grant the spirit of wis- dom, humility, patience, and love to me your servant. (Prostration)
Yes, Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not to judge others. For you are
blessed to the age of ages. Amen. (Prostration)