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Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
Hebrews 12:1

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    We have begun the Great Fast and we prepare for the bright and glorious Resurrection of our Lord.  The reason that we fast is so that our more frequent corporate prayer might be less distracted by our earthly needs.  Lent is not a mere change of diet.  By cutting back on our earthly burden, we raise our sights to things above.

If we believe that the Kingdom of God and His righteousness are worth seeking, then the Lenten requirements are not burdensome.  It is our lingering “old man,” the relic of our fallen nature that looks for the things of this earth.  From our fallen state, we sense deprivation when we are asked to follow our Lord’s commandments through the traditions of the Church.

Fasting and the other Lenten observances and commemorations that maintain the Church’s life are part of his Apostolic commission to “observe all things” that He commanded His disciples to teach us.  The ending portion of the Gospel of Matthew that records His commission of the Apostles is read at every baptism. With every baptism, there is a sense of brightness and celebration.  With every baptism, there is a newfound freedom.  This freedom is not the freedom of license, which is really voluntary slavery to passionate whim.  The freedom of the Christian Life is that liberation that comes with enlightenment and renewal.  Just so, through the season of the Fast, we seek to renew what we received at baptism.  We want to anticipate and experience with clear eyes and clean hearts just what it is that God has done and is doing for us.

His great salvation wrought through His earthly life culminating in His death and resurrection should be in our mind’s eye all the time.  To do this, we use the Lenten observances to train our faculties to enable us to better cooperate with the words prayed every day: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

It will soon be time for spring-cleaning to refresh our houses and gardens for the new season of growth.  Just so, with joyful anticipation and hope of heightened and renewed understanding and fervor informing our patience, let us as faithful Orthodox Christians move toward the “prize of our high calling,” both in this season and for our whole life.

Father George 
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