Encyclical at the Beginning of Great Lent 2019
Dearest Brethren and Fellow Wayfarers on the journey to eternal life,
From the beginning of the Triodion, the hymnographer cries out after the 50th Psalm,
“But trusting in Thy compassionate mercy, like David do I cry unto Thee: ’Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy great mercy’. “
The Holy Prophet and King David was a great man of great faith and called by God. That, however, did not stop him from falling into grave sins. He committed adultery with Bathsheba the wife of Uriah and then sent Uriah to the frontline of the war so that he might be slain and King David could cover his own sin.
No one is exempt from falling into sin. The question is, how do we handle the aftermath of sin? We humble ourselves and without abusing the mercy of God, we trust as the writer of the hymn says, “in the compassionate mercy of God”.
We are given Great Lent every year as a time to repent for our sinful life during the year that has past since the last Pascha. If we exclude Great Week, which is actually a separate fast, Great Lent is approximately one-tenth of the whole year. We use this one-tenth of the year as a totally spiritual tithe to offer back to our soul that which we ourselves have deprived our soul of during the year. We are not precisely offering something to God. Nor are we “offering our struggles” for some poor souls. No, not at all! We are struggling for our own soul. We are repairing our own inner chamber!
So these days of repentance have a great joy hidden in them. We are truly offering something to our soul which it has been deprived of, but so desperately needs. It would be a truly sad season of the year if it was a time given over to sin. But no! These are days of repair and reformation, so it is a time of bittersweet joy- bitter for the recollection of the days wasted, and sweet from the consolation of their reform.
Our Christ alone knows the hidden wounds of our soul. Our Lord alone can give us the contrition that is required to work for the restitution of our very being. St. Isaac the Syrian says, “You can see my sores hidden within me: stir up contrition—though not corresponding to the weight of my sins, for if I receive full awareness of the extent of my sins, Lord, my soul would be consumed by the bitter pain from them. Assist my feeble stirrings on the path to true repentance.”
This present life has been given to us for the work of repentance. Let this Great Lent be a step in returning our soul towards the likeness of God in which we were created.
Forgive me and a blessed Great Lent to all!
Bishop of Pallini and Western Europe