We live in biblical times. Pestilence, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars; distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth (Lk. 21:25-6); iniquity abounds and the love of many grows cold. And yet in spite of it all, Christ tells us: Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33).
As we approach Great Lent once again, we prepare to enter into this victory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By His death, He has conquered death, hell, and the devil, the primordial enemies of mankind. Now, He remains ever seated in glory on the right hand of the Father. But we often grow fainthearted from the cares of life, and lose sight of this reality. So we have to be reminded of it. The season of Lent helps us in this process of reorientation, spurring us to repentance, that is to metanoia, a change of mind.
Christ’s commandment to repent is always timely and urgent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Does this mean that His Second Coming is indeed imminent? We know neither the day nor the hour. Therefore Christ commands us to be vigilant and watch. But the kingdom of God comes not with outward observation; it is within us. How are we then to watch? We must repent; that is, we must redirect our minds, so that we train the eye of our soul on Christ, invoking His holy name in our hearts with every breath we take. Then, as the Apostle says, our life will be hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).
If God be with us, who can be against us? When we observe the tumult of the world, we should never lose heart, but have confidence in Christ’s ultimate victory when He shall come in glory. Moreover, this glory shall be to all His saints (Ps. 149:9). We too will participate in His victory if we faithfully keep our spiritual gaze fixed on Him. Then, regardless of when He appears openly, we will not be caught off guard, but will be ready at any moment to meet Him.
That is why the remembrance of death is so highly praised by our holy Fathers. Far from being a morbid, gloomy occupation, meditating on our own mortality sobers us from intoxicating passions and frees us from the tyranny of earthly cares. When we die inwardly to this life, the lamp of our mind is kindled with longing for Christ. Our heart eagerly departs this world to meet Him, like the wise virgins in the parable. In that spiritual meeting, we also encounter the friends of the Bridegroom—the angels, the Mother of God, and all the saints.
We meet our departed loved ones there too. And though we remain separated from them in the flesh, we pray for them and thereby remain united with them in spirit. Great Lent helps us with this too, providing us with many special services of prayer for the departed. We invite you therefore to join us in this labor of the Fast by submitting the names of your reposed loved ones, and making an optional offering on their behalf. These names will be commemorated at every Liturgy, Pannykhida, Litia, and Matins for the Departed during the Lenten season.
May our Savior bless you all with a fruitful Lenten struggle, so that together we may meet Him on Pascha night with radiant faces and joyful hearts, singing the triumphal hymn: Christ is risen!