The Great Lent Epistle of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine

19 March 2013, 12:17 | с | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Beloved in the Lord, Reverend Clergy!

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Having only been in a state of spiritual joy recently celebrating the Holy Nativity season, we scar¬cely perceived, by the grace of God, that the Holy Church has guided us to a new point in our lives – a time of fasting and prayer, a period of spiritual strengthening and purification, an occasion for spiritual advance¬ment and perfection. The Holy and Great Fast is a unique time in the life of every Christian. This is the time dedicated to repe¬ntance and forgiveness for the cleansing of our soul and body. This exceptional time provides us an opportunity to draw as close as possible to holiness and, ultimately, to God.
 
This Fast is called “great” because it is the longest of all fasts in the Ecclesiastical Year, and because it prepares us for the great soteriological events of our salvation – the Crucifixion and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Great Fast is also the most ancient. It is mentioned in the Canons of the Holy Apostles (Canon 69) and in the Canons of the First and Seventh Ecumenical Councils, confirmed by the Church as an imitation of the forty day fast of our Savior before His manifestation in the world to teach.

It merits stating that the fast was est¬ablished by God Himself in Paradise for Adam and Eve. They were forbidden to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Alas, our first ancestors broke this fast and were driven from Paradise.

The consequence of violating this fast by Adam and Eve became death, sickness, dis¬cord, war, ecological disasters, injustice and hatred... Nevertheless, God never intended death and tribulation for His creation. Con¬versely, He desires that His faithful people escape the bondage of death and sin and enter into a life in unity with Him. Therefore, this Great Fast is the path to shifting from a life of sin to a life with God and in God. This Fast is a time during which we can enter into deep self-reflection and recognize our sins, without judging anyone but ourselves and to forgive those who have wronged us without “re-paying evil with evil.” It is the result of the Fast and unceasing spiritual struggles that we may contemplate our lives and lay a strong foundation for our spiritual purification and perfection.
 
The Fast is the prayer of the body and soul. We are expected not only to lead a life in pious prayer and good works, but also to witness-in-the-flesh that we do not live by bread alone. By consuming a lenten diet and limiting our intake of foods, we also streng¬then our will to combat and resist the passions within our souls. For this reason, the Church characterizes fasting as a battle against our passions and not as a battle against the flesh. The Lord Himself gave us the example of fasting, having fasted for forty days before initiating His saving ministry. He revealed through His witness that the devil can be driven out of our lives only by fasting and prayer. Fasting and prayer are the two wings which carry us up to God, from the earthly to the ethereal.
 
The liturgical services of the Holy and Great Fast become the spiritual weapons with which we arm ourselves as an aid to perfec¬ting our spiritual state in these days of the Holy Quadragesima. The Holy Orthodox Church has always distinguished Herself by Her rich liturgical life, which becomes even more moving and spiritually bountiful throughout the days of the Great Fast. The services are resplendent with deep spiritual and theo¬logical content. Therefore, each of us has a responsibility to participate in these services in uninterrupted purity of heart and tranquility of mind, lifting up our prayers to the Lord, thereby becoming active and creative mem¬bers of the Body of Christ, the Church. Our witness for Orthodoxy – inasmuch as we are just, correct and true Christians – will reflect how we approach and participate in the Fast. That is to say, if we do not endeavour to fast, if we ignore our spirituality, how then can we expect to show those around us a good ex¬ample of spirituality and pious living? Furth¬ermore, fasting is yet another opportunity to change our lifestyle, to ascend yet another rung in the climb toward our spiritual ma¬turity and perfection, and to take one more step towards our Creator.
 
The entirety of our spiritual warfare is directed towards one action – repentance. This means changing our focus and way of thinking, turning our minds toward God, and modifying our lifestyles. Repentance is the road toward salvation. Therefore, we ought to take full advantage of this opportunity – to engage in a good struggle during the time of the Great Fast and bring forth the worthy fruits of repentance that we may discard the old, worn clothing of the passions and, cleansing ourselves from sin, don the new clothing of Divine Grace by manifesting complete and utter love for Christ with our entire being, uniting ourselves to Him in the Holy Eucharist.
 
During these holy days of Great Lent, we sincerely greet the pious Ukrainian nation in Ukraine and in the Diaspora throughout the world – in the USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and in South America – with the dawn of the Great Fast and, by lifting up our hands in prayer to the Heavenly Altar, we call God’s blessings upon you all.
 
May our All-Merciful and Almighty Lord aid and support all of us to pass the time of this Great Fast honorably that we may be counted worthy to greet the Radiant Resurrection of Christ in purity of heart and spiritual joy!

+ YURIJ, Metropolitan
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+ ANTONY, Metropolitan
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Locum Tenens Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora

+ IOAN, Archbishop
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora
+ JEREMIAH, Archbishop
Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of Brazil and South America
+ ILARION, Bishop
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
+ ANDRIY, Bishop
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
+ DANIEL, Bishop
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

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