Archpastoral Letter on Great Lent 2004
Prot. N. 160
"I will arise!" St. Luke 15:18
To the Very Reverend Protopresbyters, Very Reverend, and Reverend Fathers,
Monastics, and the pious faithful of our Diocese,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Now we arise! Now we commence the season of the Great and Holy Fast, a time
of repentance and sanctification, a time of testing and purification. The days
and weeks that have come before, the period that the Church calls
"Triodion", have prepared us well for our Lenten Pilgrimage. For we
have heard what I believe to be the greatest of all the parables of our Lord,
the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
There is no more perfect icon of repentance, no more exquisite image of
godly sorrow. It is the fullness of the Gospel compressed into some 500 words
in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, but these are words of
life and of spirit, even as the Lord Himself said (St. John 6:63 ).
If we attend to these words, and press them into our hearing and
understanding, into our souls and hearts, into our mind and imagination, these
words can make of our Holy Lent a true journey back to the House of our Father,
where we shall partake of the Mystical Paschal Banquet of the Lamb of God, Who
takes away the sin of the world and the stain from our souls. And it all begins
with our will, our desire, what we really want out of life.
The younger of the two brothers thought he knew what he wanted. He wanted it
all, and he wanted it now. He demanded of his Father:
"Father, give me the part of the fortune that belongs to me , (vs.
Did the Father hold anything back from him? And does God hold anything back
from us? God has put even the breath of life into our nostrils, making it
possible for us to enjoy His glorious creation. Who are the ones who waste this
precious gift? Who are the ones who destroy what the Creator has ordained to
be? The answer is in the mirror for us to behold. Let us look into the mirror of
the Prodigal Son:
The younger son gathered all his things together and went abroad into a
distant land. And there he squandered his fortune, leading the life of a
reckless prodigal. ( vs. 13 )
You see, my friends, God loves us so much, and honors our freedom as His
children, that He allows us to run away to distant lands and squander the
fortune of His blessings. We are all prodigals, wastrels; and like the Prodigal
Son, we too reap bitter harvests.
But there is always a chance of return, and time of repentance. Like the
Prodigal, we awake one day "sick and tired of being sick and tired."
We come unto ourselves ( vs. 17) and ask ourselves:
"How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread
to eat! And I am going to starve to death?"
And why should we starve -either spiritually, emotionally, psychologically,
or even physically? There is more than enough of the Bread of Heaven to satisfy
our hungry souls!
Let us say with the Prodigal Son: "I will arise!"
Let us raise ourselves from the mire of our sins and say: "I will
Let us stand again in the dignity of the image and likeness of God and say:
"I will arise!"
Let us say to our Heavenly Father together with the Prodigal Son:
" Father , I have sinned before Heaven and in your sight and I am no
longer worthy to be called your child. Make me as one of your hired servants.
" (vs. 18,19)
Then and only then, beloved brothers and sisters, can we find our way home.
Then and only then will the path that leads to the door of our Father's house
become bright with the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Then, we shall see the
Father coming towards us, even when we are a long way off, because God is
always looking for us, as the Lord assures:
But while the Prodigal Son was yet a long way off, his father saw him.
His father, overcome with emotion, ran out to meet to him. And His Father
embraced him and kissed him on the neck. (vs. 20)
This is the Mystery of Repentance,. This is the Sacrament of Holy
Confession. This is the embrace of the Father. This is the welcoming kiss of
love that awaits every person who returns home.
And note well! In the Sacrament, there is no shame; for while the Father
accepts your confession, he will never accept your degradation. Listen to the
Then the son said to him, "Father, I have sinned before Heaven and
in your sight and I am no longer worthy to be called your son -" but
the father called to the servants, "Bring out his finest robe and put it
on him! And put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet! And bring the
fatted calf; sacrifice it! And let us feast, yes, blaze with joy! For this m).
son was dead, and is alive again! He was lost, and now is found. "
See how the Father cuts off the final phrase, "Make me as one of
your hired servants." He spares us humiliation, because He accepts our
humility .And behold what gifts repentance brings: the first robe of Baptism is
placed on us again; the ring -the pledge of the Holy Spirit is bestowed again;
we are shod with the sandals that symbolize our freedom in Christ ( as opposed
to our slavery to sin); and we are admitted to the feast of the fatted Calf,
who was sacrificed for the life of the world, the Holy and Divine Liturgy.
My beloved Brethren, during these holy days of Lent, let us all gather ourselves,
come unto ourselves as once did the Prodigal. Let us raise ourselves from
whatever mire we find ourselves in, and head home to the House of our Father .
Let us arise !
As we begin this Great Fast together, the following fasting regulations are
to be observed by our faithful:
1) Monday, February 23, 2004 (Clean Monday), the first day of Lent, is a day
of strict abstinence; likewise, Great and Holy Friday and Great and Holy
Saturday, namely April 9 and 10. On these days, no meat or dairy products may
2) All Wednesdays and Fridays during this entire season are days of
abstinence from meat.
3) Meat and meat products may not be eaten during all of Great and Holy
Week, April 5 through April 10.
4) For the evening Presanctified Liturgy, a minimal three-hour fast from all
food and drink ought to be observed before the reception of Holy Communion.
(Normal fasting from midnight is still practiced before the Liturgies of St.
John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great.
5) Where the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is celebrated on Great
and Holy Thursday, the three-hour fast is required.
These are the minimum requirements for observing during this season. But for
those of a stronger body and more willingly spirit, again I whole- heartedly
recommend the penitential practices of a sterner quality which the time-honored
traditions and customs of our Holy Orthodox Church have handed down to us.
With my prayers for you and your families that you experience a
meaningful, uplifting and spiritually beneficial Great Fast, I remain
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
This Archpastoral Letter is to be read in all
Diocesan Parishes in lieu of the regular Sermon at the Divine Liturgy on
Sunday, February 22, 2004