St. Irene of Chrysovalantou Orthodox Church
Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians - Greater Detroit Metro Area
Divine Liturgy starts Sunday at 10:15 AM - Orthros at 8:30 AM - Vespers Saturday at 7:30 PM
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (586) 707- 2918
O taste and see that the Lord is good.
How do we motivate ourselves to make the efforts required by Great Lent: fasting, more and longer church services, the struggle to overcome our passions and to practice love? Sometimes, as Lent approaches, we feel eagerness and joy; sometimes, however, there is a sense of reluctance or even dread that the sacred time is at hand. How do we overcome this reluctance and enter joyfully into the “arena” of the Fast?
Of course, we all know that we must force ourselves to any good work: the grace of God comes to those who “do violence” to themselves, (“…the violent take it [the Kingdom of God] by force”), i.e., those who are merciless to their selfish desires. We cannot expect a time of greater spiritual efforts, like Great Lent, to be like floating on clouds and having delightful experiences. As a matter of fact, the Holy Fathers warn us against seeking “experiences,” for this opens us up to demonic delusion. We have to roll up our sleeves and do the good works expected of us, and when we have done them, to say, like good servants, that we are servants, and that we have done no more than our duty.
We are but weak flesh, after all, however, and this forcing and doing works and doing our duty gets discouraging sometimes. Does not Christ console us sometimes to encourage us to go on? Do we not sometimes get to experience the sweetness of His grace, not simply believe in it?
As a matter of fact, the hymns of the Triodion describe Great Lent precisely as a time of joy and gladness, which the faithful undertake with eagerness: "Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence (Monday Orthros, First Week of Lent)"; "Brethren, let us enter with eagerness upon the second week of the light-giving Fast (Monday Orthros, Second Week of Lent)." This joy and eagerness spring from a quiet and happy conviction deep in the soul of the presence of the grace of God, the indwelling of the Holy Trinity that forms the foundation of our life.
We become aware of this indwelling of grace in quiet and concentrated prayer. Man’s mind was made for knowing God and perceiving God’s presence. The varied activities of our outer life scatter the mind in a thousand directions, breaking it, as it were, into a thousand pieces, and this scattering creates both heaviness, a sense of the burden and futility of life, and of attraction to things that are not God, and thus we become addicted to passions and pleasures. To return the mind to God, we must first cleanse the conscience through self –examination and Confession, feed the mind through Holy Communion, and then concentrate the mind through daily prayer. This quiet time of prayer becomes our little Paradise, the time when we “walk with the Lord” in the Garden, as did our First Parents before the Fall.
The joy welling up from this Paradise of prayer helps us to overcome our reluctance to corporal and spiritual good works; it becomes the “fuel” that keeps us going on the path to Pascha, both the annual Pascha for which we prepare now in Lent, and the eternal Pascha, for which we prepare during the entire “Lent” of our life on earth. Come, let us enter into the joy of our Lord!
Desire That Which Is Truly Yours
Too great solicitude for worldly things is natural to an unbelieving and fainthearted man. And woe to us if we, in taking care for ourselves, do not confirm ourselves in our hope in God, Who takes care for us! If we do not ascribe to Him the visible goods which we use in this present age, how can we expect from Him those goods which are promised in the future? Let us not be such faint believers, but rather let us seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto us, according to the word of the Savior (Matthew 6:33).
It is better for us to despise what is not ours, that is, the temporal and passing, and desire our own, that is, incorruption and immortality. For when we shall be incorruptible and immortal, we shall become worthy of visible contemplation of God, like the Apostles at the most divine Transfiguration, and we shall be joined in a union with God surpassing the mind, like the heavenly minds. For we shall be like the angels, and sons of God, being the sons of the resurrection (Luke 20:36).
Love for Silence
More than anything else, one should adorn oneself with silence; for St. Ambrose of Milan says: I have seen many being saved by silence, but not one by talkativeness. And again one of the Fathers says that silence is the mystery of the future age, while words are the implements of this world (St. Isaac the Syrian).
- from the Spiritual Instructions of St. Seraphim of Sarov