And so, dear brothers and sisters, we now stand on the threshold of the Great Fast. The Church has been calling out to us to draw us toward spiritual awakening and to repentance for the past weeks of preparation. We were told of Zacchaeus and how he climbed above the distractions and obstructions of the world to see Christ. We were told of the Publican and the Pharisee which showed us how we must pray with humility and sincerity. We were told of the Prodigal Son and given the example of his repentance and spoke about the unceasing love of the father who rejoices over the return of the one who was lost. Last week we were brought before the dread judgment seat of Christ where Christ will ask us, ‘Have you loved Me?’ and where we must give an account of where our heart has aligned itself. And today we commemorate the expulsion of Adam from Paradise and are exhorted to humble ourselves before one another in the Rite of Forgiveness before we begin our Lenten journey.
My prayer for all of you, and for myself, is that these lessons may indeed awaken us spiritually and soften our hearts toward repentance. Let us approach the Fast with grateful hearts… grateful for all of the blessings which God bestows upon us every day; grateful that, for as long as we have breath in our lungs, we have the gift of the time for repentance – for reconciling ourselves with the Father Who loves us and wishes for our happiness and salvation.
Let us make an offering to God of our struggle… let us follow the fast to the best of our ability – reducing worldly distractions, refraining from meats and dairy foods, observing chastity, increasing our prayers at home and attending services in Church, and making a conscious effort to practice Christian kindness and mercy to all those around us.
The foundation for the proper approach and practice of fasting must be humility! Let each person listen to and follow his or her conscience in making this a spiritually successful fast. As we will say with the Prayer of St Ephraim: ‘Grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother.’ Let each of us attend to ourselves… making use of all the tools given to us by the fast to improve our spiritual health. We will reap as we are willing to sow… may this Lent’s harvest be abundant for each of us!