March 1, 2023

As the Great Fast Begins (St. John Maximovitch)

 By St. John Maximovitch

The doors of repentance are opening, Great Lent is coming. It is repeated every year, and each time it will be of great benefit to us if we properly carry it out. Great Lent is a preparation for the future life, and in the closest way, preparation for the Bright Resurrection.

Just as a staircase is arranged in a high building so that it is easy to climb the steps to the height of the building, so the different days of the year are steps for our spiritual elevation and ascent.

These especially include the days of Great Lent and Holy Pascha.

During Great Lent we are cleansed of sinful filth, and on Holy Pascha we feel the bliss of the coming Kingdom of Christ. When one climbs a high mountain, they will try to get rid of any extra weight. The less someone is loaded, the easier it is for them to climb and the higher they can climb.

So, in order to rise spiritually, first of all, you need to free yourself from the burden of sin. It is removed from us by repentance on the indispensable condition that we ourselves expel all enmity from ourselves and forgive everyone whom we consider guilty before us. Purified and forgiven by God, then we encounter the Bright Resurrection of Christ.

And what a priceless gift of God we receive, at the culmination of our lenten struggle. We already hear about this in the first hymns of the daily lenten stichera: “Our food shall be the Lamb of God, on the holy and radiant night of His Awakening: the Victim offered for us, given in communion to the disciples on the evening of the Mystery.” (Aposticha sticheron, Sunday of the Last Judgment).

Communion of the Body and Blood of the Resurrected Christ, unto eternal life, that is the goal of the Holy Forty Days. Not only on Pascha do we commune, but during Lent also. On Pascha those people should commune who have fasted, confessed and received the Holy Mysteries during Great Lent. Just before Pascha itself there is little opportunity for a proper and thorough confession; the priests are very busy and most of the time occupied with the Passion services. Rather one must prepare ahead of time.

Each time one receives the Mysteries of Christ, one is united with Christ Himself; each time it is a soul-saving act. Why, then, is such significance attached to receiving Holy Communion on the night of Holy Pascha, and why are we all called to do so?

Then, especially, we are given to experience the Kingdom of Christ. Then, especially, we are illumined with the Eternal Light and strengthened for the spiritual ascent.

This is an irreplaceable gift of Christ, an incomparable good. Let no one deprive himself of this joy and, instead of receiving Holy Communion on Pascha night, hasten to eat meat and other foods. Communing of the Holy Mysteries on that night prepares us for the banquet in the eternal Kingdom of God.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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