Monday, March 9, 2015

The Great Fast ( Hieromonk Moses the Hagiorite )

By Hieromonk Moses the Hagiorite, Vatopaidi Monastery, Mt.Athos

Many people ignore or do not will to acknowledge the true meaning of these days (of fast), consuming themselves with their routine (monotonous) everyday life. The modern man complains that life is tiring him, yet makes no step towards a fundamental change. He takes on strict diets sometimes, yet disregards the fast. He can make time for a counseling psychologist, can spend hours in front of television, but finds no time for a spiritual father or for the church.

Today’s man does not want to offer but he’d rather receive with not much effort or personal sacrifice. Too afraid to look himself in the eyes, he runs away from himself and struggles in his inner emptiness.

The Great Fast works like an X-Ray, like a (video) camera or like a mirror. In a certain way, we do not welcome it because it reveals our hidden reality.

Today’ spirit of consumerism, comfort and pride leaves man a prisoner of the many unnecessary things that have filled his life. The Great Lent is a halt in the routine rush of life and an opportunity for transfiguration. The prayer of blessed Ephraim the Syrian that in this period it is said hundreds of times during the religious services, urges us to abandon sloth, a lot of care, love of power and idle talk and gain purity, humble thoughts, patience and love. This beautiful and meaningful prayer ends by asking God: “Grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother…”

Let’s abandon gossip, judgment of others that continually stain our soul and let’s move the focus on ourselves correcting our fallings.

The Great Lent urges us to return to one-self and it contributes to our healing from the spiritual diseases that darken our minds and make our lives difficult and bitter.

If we manage to reach this self-knowledge and repentance, then the Great Lent will not be a gloomy and barren time for us, or a simple time to fulfill the “moral duties”, but an opportunity to soften our hardened hearts, which will lead us to the love of people and the love for God.

The excessive rationalism of the difficult time we live in, strives to keep us away from what is mystical, from all that is holy – unspeakable and beyond nature – mystery.

And the result of this state comes to light. Everywhere melancholy and despair reigns, wounding the soul. It is time to see from the depth of our hearts, that we have become estranged and, the time is ripen to return to the cradle of Crucified Love.

Often during the time of Great Lent, temptations, trials, tribulations and failures occur. These will come for us to mature, to acquire balance and a child like nature. Let’s not forget that the life of the Christian is one with the Cross. Without crucifixion comes no resurrection.

The Great Lent is a beautiful time for preparation, a semi-darken corridor leading us to the chamber full of light. The members of this preparatory time are prayer and fasting. But prayer and fasting without humility and love, bares no fruit. The fasting and prayer aim to temper our selfishness. Let’s not loose this opportunity offered once again by the Great Fast, as we’re slowly approaching its end. In the Church, our problems find their solution. The cold winter is followed by spring. Following the clouds, the sunny weather is even more beautiful. The Triodion is followed by the Pentecostarion. And now, as a wonderful hymn says, is the “time of repentance and the hour for prayer.”