Archpastoral Letter on Great Lent 2008
Prot. N. 185-March 9, 2008
To the Venerable Priesthood and Diaconate, the
Clergy and the Seminarians of the Diocese, and our Beloved and Devoted
Christ is Among Us! He is and Always Shall Be!
Dear Clergy and Faithful:
We are about to enter into the Season of the year when the Lord draws our
hearts close to Him and His Church. We are about to refrain from certain foods
and entertainments for a time. We are about to attend Divine Services more
often. We are about to give more charity to the poor, to be kinder to our
neighbors, to care for the sad and the grieving around us.
We do all this not because there is something wrong with food or
entertainment. Instead, we are reminded that there is something wrong with our
hearts. We need to understand, every year before Holy Week, just why Holy Week
is needed. We need to understand why the Cross means life to us, and why we need
salvation from the powers of darkness.
The Lenten fasting period is a time of looking deep into our hearts, and
looking up at the Cross, and waiting for the glory of the Resurrection Day. It
is a time when we bravely think about sin and about the wages of sin that is
It takes bravery to think about sin. If you don't think so, then perhaps you
haven't thought much recently either about sin, or the result of sin which is
death. Sin is more than not being perfect or making the grade. It is more than missing
the mark. It is not enough to say that sin is a fault, or even a crime.
It is, rather, a betrayal and a sickness, all mixed into one horrible stain.
Sin is an action or a behavior. It is the result of thoughts and feelings,
passions and temptations. It is like a weed that sprouts in ugliness after it
has grown underground from the seeds of bad thoughts and nurtured by grudges,
fantasies and selfish desires.
The world sees this, and it is not offended. It sees the weeds of sin grow
in every heart, and calls it "normal", simply because that is what most of the
people do most of the time.
But sometimes, and especially in the time of a fasting season, we see sin
with the eyes of the Apostles and the Holy Fathers, and with a conscience
sensitized by the Holy Spirit. We recognize the foul ugliness of sin as nothing
less than a spiritual gangrene. It is like someone with lung cancer continuing
to smoke, or an alcoholic continuing to drink himself to death. Sin is like
that: a willing exposure of one's heart to the cancer of sin...a voluntary
acceptance of gangrene in the soul.
Who would willingly become so ugly in the heart? Who would willingly
introduce decay and ruin into the soul? Yet, that is what happens when sin is
committed: death is embraced and participated in.
Of course, the world does not know this, or it chooses to ignore this. It
runs around in circles in insane denial.
But you and I are brought face to face with the ugliness of sin in the Great
Fast, from which the world runs away. We are forced to face up to the fact that
sin is neither fun nor is it entertaining. It is grotesque and full of death.
And in the Lenten Season, for everything we learn about sin and death, we
learn even more about life and Jesus Christ.
When we fast from food and entertainments, we enter into a quiet hunger for
the Bread of Life: this is the Eucharist, the life of the Holy Trinity which is
brought by the Son of Man to all mankind. When we love and forgive, and give of
our riches to the poor, we participate in the obedience of the Son of God to
God the Father: we empty ourselves, and love our neighbor, our friend and even
This Great Fast of Lent, we will all - each one of us - enter into the Holy
Mystery of Confession. There we will confess our sins to God in the presence of
the priest and the Saints. We will recognize the ugliness of the stain of sin,
and we will understand our complicity in spiritual death. We will examine our
conscience through prayer and preparation, and we will accuse ourselves of sin.
We will repent with remorse, and we will wait upon the absolution given by
God's servant - our priest, our confessor.
I remind all of you, as your fervent intercessor before Christ and your
Archpastor, that we are all - clergy and laity alike - bound by a solemn duty
to come to the Sacrament of Confession and Penance this Lent. Fulfill this
commandment with all your heart, and you will be healed. You will call upon the
Name of the Lord, and He will lift your burdens and set you free.
In the Lenten Fast, and in Confession, we look up at the Cross and over the
horizon to the Day of the Resurrection. And in the light of that Paschal
Morning, shining even into these Forty Days of fasting, we look into our
hearts, and we recognize that Jesus Christ dwells in our hearts through the
Holy Spirit. The Trinity is drawing us closer, higher, and further up into the
eternal and glorious Fellowship of the Divine Brightness - all because God is
love, and all because we repented and believed, and all because we followed
Jesus Christ through the Great Fast, to the Cross and through the Resurrection.
Beloved, let this fasting season be a Lenten struggle against sin! Let us
not be afraid of death, but let us fight its power under the sign of the Cross.
Let us shine the brightness of the Resurrection Morning into the night of the
world. Let us be hungry not for the food and pleasures of the world, but for
the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Let us seek the fellowship of the
Body of Christ in prayer. Let us be merciful and quiet, peaceful and sweet.
Let us confess our sins, so that we will not be ruined by them. Let us
receive the cleansing and purification of the absolution of the Church, so that
we might draw close to God the Father, in the Spirit, through the Son.
Granting you my Archpastoral blessing, and
praying that you may grow strong in the Grace of the Lord, I remain
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
This Archpastoral letter is to be read in every Parish of the Diocese in
lieu of the sermon on Sunday March 9, 2008