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Glory to Jesus Christ!
Fr. Terence's Message for Lent 2016
Fr. Terence's Message for Lent 2016
Dear Friends in Christ,
We have just begun the Orthodox Christian season of Great Lent, a time of reflection & careful consideration of where our hearts, minds & souls are in relationship to Christ. In preparing for the celebration of Christ’s suffering, death & resurrection, we focus on three central parts of our Christian life: prayer, fasting & almsgiving.
For the first aspect, our liturgical calendar provides numerous services throughout this season & I ask you to look at the calendar of events provided on the website for Great Lent & Holy Week. These services offer a great way to examine where we need to repent & turn back to Christ in our lives (the Pre-sanctified Liturgies), where we have been lazy in our search for Christ & lost focus (the Bridegroom Services), where we can use the examples of such saints as St. Gregory Palamas, St. John Clamacus, St. Mary of Eygpt to help us see where we have sinned & inspire us to turn back to Christ. On the first Sunday, we reaffirm our Orthodox Christian faith and the role of icons in our life with Christ & then on the third Sunday, we reflect on the cross of Christ & and resolve to take up our own crosses. Further, I urge you to read the scripture readings each day that are listed in our Church Calendar. The more earnest we are in focusing on these themes, the more we will refocus our hearts, minds & souls to Christ.
The second is fasting. This is an essential & powerful tool in coming closer to Christ. Warnings are given to us by Christ & St. Paul in the scriptures about taking fasting out of context. Even so, there is no doubt that God called his chosen people to fast many times in order to turn back to him. Nor is there any doubt that the early Christian community continued it not just as a practice but a way of life. Regarding cautions, one has to be careful not to use this tool legalistically. In other words, if I fast I am better than those who do not or, if I forget to at times, I have committed a grave sin. Further, if you have medical or work conditions that require eating food at certain times, then it would be imprudent to take any risks by fasting at those times. A big part of the Orthodox practice is to abstain from meat & dairy products, especially the former, for the whole 40 days. One needs to eat non meat foods that have protein to substitute for it. Be prepared to eat a lot more salads & fruit! Remember that fasting is for the benefit of the body, not the body for fasting. If it is used properly, fasting can be very helpful. We will become healthier by losing weight, help control our cholesterol etc. One final point: fasting is not just about me. It has a cosmic dimension, both spiritually & physically. With the former, we do battle with the apocalyptic forces of the cosmos. With the latter, we significantly help the planet. Did you know that it takes 11 times less energy to produce the same amount of grain as it does meat? Imagine the impact it would have on the carbon footprint if all the Christians of the world took up the Orthodox Christian fasting practices!
The third is alms giving, a practice that Christ emphasized strongly in his teachings, warning us we would be judged by our performance. This too, through our actions, not just to our fellow human beings but also to the whole planet, shows that they have ramifications to the whole cosmos that Christ called us to embrace through our baptism.
Let us therefore embrace this season, in order to renew our relationship with Christ, with all our fellow human beings, with all creatures and indeed the whole cosmos that he has given us!
Fr. Terence Baz, pastor