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Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok about Great Lent

"Lent is a Path to Eternal Life"

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

“Fasting is the mother of humility,
A source of all wisdom;
Fasting is a wellspring of all blessings,
A teacher of chastity and every virtue.”
(St John Chrysostom)

“Lent is a period of spiritual awakening. It is a time when one can truly embrace the word of God as truth and the essence of life. It is crucial to embark on Lent with the right mindset. To aid in this, the Church presents us with the evening recitations of the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete. This canon, divinely inspired in Venerable Andrew, intertwines Old Testament humanity’s longing with Christ’s fulfilled advent. It voices the anguish of humanity, estranged from God, ousted from paradise due to sin, and in search of the path to the Kingdom of Heaven.”

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“Fasting manifests our love for God. Yet, what can we offer Him? It becomes clear that discussing any form of cosmic love becomes superficial if we struggle to forgo even a bowl of soup. If we cannot master our desires, claiming to pray for the entire world seems like mere wishful thinking. To attain greater heights, we must start with the trivial. Otherwise, we may find ourselves voicing grand notions while failing to take even a minor step, for God’s sake. Fasting represents a modest offering to God, akin to the ‘widow’s mite,’ which one can present. By imposing a limit on oneself, God rewards one a hundredfold. Fasting serves as a remedy. When an individual sacrifices something for Christ, I believe God will never dismiss them or let them suffer loss; rather, He will physically and spiritually fortify them.”

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“Great Lent guides us towards Easter and the Resurrection. While it entails moderating our food intake and leisure activities, fasting is not solely about refraining from food; it is about regaining inner serenity. The soul’s journey towards God is a battle against sin. Sin diverts us from God and disrupts our internal harmony, hence, abstaining in speech, thought, and emotion forms the foundation of our spiritual quest towards God. Our external moderation aims to focus all our efforts on the battle for internal liberation and beauty, gifts that only Christ’s love can bestow. This external moderation — in food, entertainment, and other pleasures — allows us to introspect, be alone with ourselves, and endeavour to open our hearts to God through prayer and repentance.”

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“The fasting journey is a path to eternal life, traversed alongside our neighbours. Abstinence is not about displaying moroseness or adhering to strict external routines. It’s about expressing gratitude to God for our blessings, valuing what we’ve been granted in this life, and bearing life’s inevitable hardships, illnesses, and losses with humility. A single sinful thought or word can sever one’s connection with God and fellow humans. Therefore, we must remain vigilant about our actions and choices. Sin seeks to allure us, making the forbidden seem desirable. Still, we ought to question the presence of joy in godless places, the happiness in solitude driven by ego and disregard for others, and whether true joy can stem from sin, selfishness, and resentment towards others. In a monastery gathering, a sister aptly remarked, ‘I need fasting to truly see the person beside me.’”

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“Fasting is intricately linked to human history. In paradise, perpetual fasting existed, and its violation led our ancestors to lose their divine grace. Great Lent prepares us for the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Our fasting is not an exercise in self-affliction or willpower; it is adherence to the Holy Church, a means to subdue our flesh and pride for God’s sake. Fasting enables us to reflect on ourselves soberly, gather our soul’s strength for introspection, and acknowledge our sinful nature. And we pray: ‘...Grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother.’”

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“The essence of Lent is not merely to endure it outwardly, making occasional visits to the church, but to fully engage with it internally, to conquer sin, so that the joy of the Resurrection may sanctify our lives and aid us in our ongoing fight against death. A challenging journey lies ahead, but there is light at the end — Easter, the eternal Passover for each of us!”

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

April 10, 2024
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