GREAT FAST PASTORAL OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY OF THE U.S.A. TO OUR CLERGY, HIEROMONKS AND BROTHERS, RELIGIOUS SISTERS, SEMINARIANS AND BELOVED FAITHFUL
“Open to me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life. As we worship
in Your temple this morning, teach us how to purify
the temple of our bodies, and in Your compassion,
purify me by the goodness of your mercies.”
Matins, Sunday of Publican and Pharisee
With these words, we are invited to embark on the Lenten pilgrimage. The doors of repentance are opening! The Great Lent is beginning! Every year Great Lent is repeated, and each time it brings us great benefit if we as individuals, our families and church community entrust ourselves to start this journey. It is a preparation for the life to come and, more immediately, a preparation for the Bright Resurrection. Repentance for us as individuals is the conscious transformation of our hearts, our minds, and the very essence of our lives. This is at the heart of the Great Lent.
Through this Lenten pilgrimage, we begin our preparation for the glorious feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord. Daily we acknowledge our need to repent as we recite the Lenten prayer of Saint Ephrem of Syria. “Yes, O Lord and King, let me see my own sins and not judge my brothers and sisters for you are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.” We pray acknowledging that it is only when we enter the “wilderness of the desert of our heart” and focus inward that we take the first step on the road to repentance and the journey to and beyond the empty tomb on the day of Pascha.
During the Lenten days, we are offered the opportunity to seek release from those things we have allowed, often unconsciously, to hold us captive, yet which in and of themselves have no real power over us. Now, during the forty days, we are challenged to do away with our passions, our preoccupations, our pride, our jealousy and anger. Now, we are assured that the doors of repentance are opened to those who knock.
Now, during the Lenten journey our prayer, fasting and almsgiving have the power to transform our lives and the lives of those around us. Repentance, however, must never be regarded as our spiritual activities that prepare us only for the feast of Pascha. Repentance stands at the very heart of our spiritual lives. Repentance is our ongoing, continuing and daily pursuit.
We enter this Lenten journey as individuals, but we are not alone, at the same time we enter this pilgrimage with our families and our church community. Together we stand at the doors of repentance. Together, we knock and implore the Giver of Life to lead us from the desert of our life into the joy of being with God.
On this journey with our eyes opened, and our hearts free to follow Christ, we will be able to see in the new light people around us. We will be able to listen attentively to those in need, those who are less fortunate than us in our community. We will be able to live our Christian vocation to preach the Good News of Christ, to be missionaries and missionary community, a welcoming and hospitable community both for its faithful and for strangers. We can manifest this spirit of service toward those who are closest to us – our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, fellow parishioners, and even to total strangers, whom we meet for the first time. We should remember that in our midst there are many, who have left the Church for a variety of reasons, or they do not attend simply because no one has ever said to them: “Come and see!” (John 1:46).
Great Lent is a perfect time to strive to live for our church community in unity, a community that is resplendent with evangelical joy and godly life. Our spiritual life will be a sign of God’s presence in the world, through our prayer and our service to others, we will proclaim the Good News. This Lenten journey allows us to touch all aspects of our inner life, our church community and in a broader sense encompasses the fullness of Christian life. Let us be not afraid with joy to enter this Lenten pilgrimage, so on the Great Monday of Holy Week we can with a renewed spirit and sincere heart sing: “I see your bridal chamber completely engulfed with light, O my Savior, and I do not have a wedding garment to enter and enjoy Your brightness, fill the garment of my soul with light, and save me, O Lord, save me.” Exapostilarion, Matins of Great Monday.
May God bless our Lenten pilgrimage toward the glorious Feast of the Resurrection!