March 17, 2024

Cheesefare Sunday: The Weapons of a Christian (Fr. George Metallinos)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Metallinos

"The race for the virtues has opened..."

1. We are at the end of the first part of the Triodion and from tomorrow we enter its second part, Great Lent. Our Church already taught us the virtue of humility, as a basic precondition of repentance, during the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. She assured us of the reality of salvation, when there is sincere repentance, on the Sunday of the Prodigal. And finally, she highlighted to us the reason for which we need to repent and return, that is, the event of the Universal Judgment, on Meatfare Sunday. Because Great Lent is a period of spiritual and physical preparation and introduction to the Passion of our Christ, the Church reminds us today of a serious and sad event, which became the reason for Christ to come into the world and suffer. It reminds us of man's expulsion from Paradise.

2. When people today hear of expulsion from Paradise, they thinks it funny. These words seem to them to be the "ravings of a lunatic". If indeed they are a "liberal" and progressive theologian, he will accept the thing in an allegorical, metaphorical sense.

It is observed that, as far as the Holy Scriptures are concerned, we take what interests us literally. However, we give an allegorical interpretation to what (we think) is not in our interest. Nevertheless, the expulsion from Paradise is one of those events that cannot be interpreted allegorically, because they are truths. Expulsion from Paradise is the fact of man's spiritual death, his separation from God through sin. The most tragic point of the well-known scriptural narrative (Gen. 3) is that, while God gave man the possibility of repentance in Paradise, man still did not want to admit his fall. They simply transferred their responsibility: from Adam to the woman and the woman to the serpent. The fall of man, therefore, was natural, a fact of his nature, a fall purely his own and not the result of alleged divine austerity. Man fell not only because he erred, sinned, but above all because he did not repent. He did not admit his sin. Yes, my brethren! So-called science cries out desperately, and tries to convince us that man comes from the ape, with the ultimate goal of course to question our divine creation. But we need no other evidence to prove our fall than to ask a child: why did you do that? And you will get the answer: I didn't do it, (so-and-so) did it. Doesn't this transfer of responsibility prove our descent from the First-formed and the truth of the scriptural narrative?

3. The fall, therefore, of the first man - and through him the whole of humanity - was the cause of the coming of our Christ into the world. To lead us again "from death to life". But Christ guides man through the path of repentance and total devotion to God. That is why the talk of repentance in Great Lent is so intense. Because without recognition of the fall and sincere return, man does not achieve his sanctification, his union with God in the person of Jesus Christ, His true Son.

But how many see Great Lent this way today? For most of us, any desire for spiritual resurrection has been leveled. And the worst thing is that the so-called Christianity of our time is not satisfied with the works of its prodigality, but has the audacity to demand that the Church, Christ, adapt the gospel to its dispositions and measures. That is why the disorientated Christian world considers a shepherd anyone who will accept, even "philosophically", Carnival and its debauchery, and not anyone who will evangelically point out the incalculable moral consequences of the Roman orgies, which with the guise of entertainment survive in our time.

Man's repentance, which will be basically the topic of discussion from today, is not a momentary change of situation. A simple transition from the works of darkness to the works of light. Repentance is a continuous process, represented schematically by a series of fluctuating curves. It is a battlefield against the enemy, who from the moment of the fall claims the soul of man. It is a continuous effort to root out evil desire, which is also the root of sin. The body does not sin. We don't fast to exhaust it. The body was made good and holy. The soul is to blame. Because evil desire took root in her. We restrain ourselves, then, so that the desire is exhausted.

4. However, as in any struggle, so also in the spiritual, which is the fastest and most decisive, because it has eternal dimensions, the appropriate weapons are needed. These weapons are pointed out to us today by both the Apostolic (Rom. 13:13) and the Gospel readings. The Apostle Paul calls them "weapons of light". And presents them. The weapons indicated by the Apostle are mainly defensive weapons. The eradication of passions. The killing of those dark adversaries, which contribute to our alienation from God. Our offensive weapons are presented more strongly in the Gospel reading. It is forgiveness towards our fellow human beings. True fasting that is not simple abstinence from food, but also spiritual, the abstinence from passions. And finally our attachment to God, as our only treasure. Without these weapons the conduct of our spiritual struggle is impossible. It is also impossible to experience the message of Great Lent. And the Church insists on extending this invitation even today, as it has done continuously for two thousand years. Because the works of darkness or light are not determined by the seasons, but by the soul of man, which remains the same in every season. Want an example of this truth?

Augustine was a young, wise and worldly man in every sense of the word, a "modern" young man, even though we are separated by 1500 years from his time. All his valuable qualities he spent in the works of darkness. And one day of intense internal struggle, he heard a child's voice telling him. "Take and read." Full of wonder he entered his office and saw some manuscripts on the floor. He took them in his hands and the first sentences he read were the words of the Apostle Paul, which we heard today: "Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." And this was the trigger for Augustin's conversion.

My brethren!

With the same reasons that God called Saint Augustine, to change him from a man of darkness to a child of light, our Church calls us today to repentance and conversion, while outside the churches there is the appearance of joy and the mask of gaiety, the Carnival. "The race for the virtues has opened, and those willing to compete, enter therein...".

Source: From the book ΦΩΣ ΕΚ ΦΩΤΟΣ – Κηρυγματικές σκέψεις στα ευαγγελικά αναγνώσμα. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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