Archpastoral Letter on Great Lent 2010
Prot. N. 196 - February 14, 2010
Very Reverend Protopresbyters, Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, and dearly-beloved faithful of our God-saved Diocese:
GLORY TO JESUS CHRIST! GLORY FOREVER!
“He had no form or glory, and we saw Him; and He had no form or beauty. But in comparison to all men, His form was lacking in honor. He was a man in suffering, and He knew how to bear sickness. Although He was ill-treated, He opened not His mouth. He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and as a lamb silent before his shearers, He opens not His mouth…”
Isaiah 53: 2-4; 7-8
Again we stand at the threshold of the Great Fast! Ten weeks before the Glorious feast of Pascha, we began our preparation for the glorious and awesome mystery of the Passion and Death of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ! It was for this reason that He, the very Son of God Himself, came into the world: to die for us and our salvation!
For the next forty days we will anticipate the Great and Holy Passion Week. Forty days out of 365 is approximately one tenth of the year, and as the hymns of this first week of the Lenten period reflect, we offer our tithe of time in doing more than what we have done throughout the rest of the year: more fasting, more prayer, more church attendance and participation in Divine Services, more works of charity and love and generosity and forgiveness, more Scripture reading and meditation, all of which assist us in spiritual growth and closeness to our sweet Saviour and help to prepare us for the end of His earthly life.
While there are many important themes and motifs throughout these days and weeks, which already began three weeks ago, our focus remains the same! Our Lord began in advance to prepare His disciples for His impending Crucifixion. We hear in the Gospel reading on the fifth Sunday of the Great Fast, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem…” (Mark 10: 32). Then He tells them precisely why! To be delivered up to death!
Can you even begin to imagine the panic and the fear, the anxiety and the confusion, the uncertainty and the disbelief, that must have struck the hearts of those followers? How could such things as these that He described happen to the One Who healed the blind, the crippled, the deaf, the possessed, and those afflicted with many other maladies? How dare anyone consider perpetrating such a crime on the One Who raised from the dead the widow’s only son, the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus? How could anyone put to death the One Who blessed the little children who flocked to Him, Who offered forgiveness and compassion to so many who were weak and lost and full of sin?
But did His followers desert Him at this crossroads? NO! Instead they did what they had set out to do; they continued to follow Him in order to witness these events that would transpire!
And at this most holy time, we are called upon to do likewise, to follow Him to the bitter end! When in our human existence, we receive word that a loved one, a relative or friend, is very ill, who has contracted a disease that will most likely take his life, out of compassion and love we make haste to be with that person, to offer comfort and support through visits, cards, telephone calls, and most importantly, prayers. In this way, we prepare them for the mystery of death. Can we do any less for our God? Is it not appropriate, then, that we do the same for the Lord of Glory Whom we profess to love?
Let us, therefore, make a vow to follow Him now during Lent, and then especially during Holy Week. As you hear the events of the Passion unfold, envision yourself within that select group of the Twelve and watch the Master’s ordeal, and weep for Him and with Him as He accomplishes our salvation.
Look upon this Man of Sorrows, as Isaiah calls Him; see the horrible agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the arrest and trial, the whipping, the spitting, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the Cross, and the nailing of His sacred Body to that Cross. Witness how nature responds: the sky darkening at midday, the quaking of the earth, the tearing in two of the veil of the temple. See how He is jeered and mocked even as He dies! If you have taken the time to see the movie “The Passion of the Christ” that was in theaters a few years ago and is available for home viewing, you will observe and comprehend how terrible this kind of death, crucifixion, was. And it should evoke tears from our eyes.
On the other hand, however, we also need to remember that this Man is more than a brutalized man: He is the God-Man Who offers His life freely! In icons of the Crucifixion, we see less of the gruesome details that Jesus suffered; instead, we see Him as the Victor over death, sin, the devil, and the world. He is depicted in a more regal manner. Even the sign above His head reads “KING OF GLORY,” rather than the “I.N.R.I” (Latin) inscription. It is terrible that any man should die this way, especially a good man, but even less fair is it that the completely innocent, sinless, all-loving, all-forgiving, all-compassionate God should succumb in this manner. THIS IS THE MYSTERY AND THE BEAUTY of our Faith!
With my prayers for you and your families that you walk with the Lord and witness His sufferings and grow in spirit and experience a meaningful, uplifting, and spiritually-beneficial Great Fast, I remain
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
Click Here to Listen to Metropolitan Nicholas Delivering Archpastoral Sermon at Christ the Saviour Cathedral
This Archpastoral letter is to be read in every Parish of the Diocese in lieu of the sermon on Sunday Feb 14, 2010