February 22, 2012
HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS` MESSAGE ON THE BEGINNING OF GREAT LENT
"With joy let us enter upon the beginning of the Fast.
Let us not be of sad countenance. . . .
Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence;
And let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments. . . .
All mortal life is but one day, so it is said,
To those who labor with love.
There are forty days in the Fast;
Let us keep them all with joy."
Matins of Clean Monday
My dearly beloved in the Lord,
As we begin Great and Holy Lent, our Church calls us to a different way of life: of prayer, worship, fasting, and acts of charity. This type of life is a choice that we have to make.
We begin Great Lent by acknowledging our sins and alienation from God, seeking forgiveness from those around us whom we have failed or offended. After all, what is required of us as Christians is not some kind of elevated or abstract philosophy, but the humble prayer of the Publican: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
This season of repentance takes us away from death and destruction and leads us to life. For God wants to give us life abundantly, but we must live in the right way. Our Holy Church always calls us to this way of life, but especially now, during Great Lent, we are called to make a greater effort. We must strive to become the person we were meant to be, created in the image of God. As St. Paul reminds us, we must “cast off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of Light” (Romans 13:12) with faith, love and hope of salvation. The Lenten struggle is real, but if we see it as a penance or a burden, then we have not understood. Great Lent is a source of joy because we are invited to let God transform us into what we really are in truth: children of our heavenly Father.
I encourage you to commit yourselves to this effort, with the guidance of our Holy Orthodox Church and according to our tradition. If we combine our fasting with prayers and charity along with repentance, we will live according to the Gospel of Christ, steadfast in our Orthodox Faith.
As your spiritual father, I will pray fervently during this Great Lenten season, dearly beloved, that each of you will turn away from all thoughts and actions that damage or harm you spiritually, and I ask you in turn to pray for me. We shall pray for each other – that our own personal repentance and our journey – through prayer, fasting and almsgiving – will bear much good fruit by focusing our hearts on Him and on our salvation. It is a journey we make together and therefore, we will support each other with love and kindness, and in prayer.
As we begin our shared journey to His Holy Resurrection, let strive together as brothers and sisters in Christ, helping each other and relying on each other. Let us persevere together in faith and love on the path to salvation.
February 29, 2012
HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS` MESSAGE ON THE SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY
"This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the Orthodox,
this is the faith which has made firm the whole world."
The First Sunday in Lent, the Sunday of Orthodoxy is a special occasion for all Orthodox Christians and plays an important role in our lives. Because Orthodoxy is a style of life, something that is at once pragmatic and spiritual. Through our Faith, we receive a different understanding of life: the understanding that we are not merely human. Through divine involvement, through a miracle, we were made in the very image and likeness of God.
For the Church, icons are not ornamental – they serve as a catechesis – instruction for the Faithful, who learn about the life of Christ and His Saints through the icons. Most importantly they are a declaration of the Incarnation – God become man for the salvation of the world. In the holy icons we are able to depict the truth of His Incarnation. To deny the iconographic depictions of Christ is to deny the truth of His humanity. The lesson of icons is the truth of a God Who became one of us. He is close to us and will lead us to His glorious Resurrection and eternal life.
Veneration of the holy icons is at the heart of our faith, because it is really veneration of the glory of God manifested in a human being. This is what we are attempting to accomplish, by God’s grace, during Lent – that is, to manifest the glory of God in ourselves by prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other acts of piety and charity.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy is not just a commemoration of distant historic events, but a celebration of a living Faith. On this Sunday, we celebrate together the triumph of the true Faith with the restoration of the Holy Icons to the churches in 843 A.D. Thus this is a celebration of struggle and also of ultimate triumph. The Church fought for almost a century and triumphed by holding fast to the Faith of the Apostles. In the same way, through faith, we can find strength and endurance for our own struggle.
As we celebrate Sunday of Orthodoxy, and continue our journey together through this blessed and holy Lenten season towards Pascha, I pray that we will find ourselves renewed and strengthened as true Orthodox Christians, participating in that miracle of Divine Involvement and Love.