The Beginning of Great Lent

St. John of Shanghai St. John of Shanghai
The doors of repentance are opening, Great Lent is beginning. Every year Great Lent is repeated, and each time it brings us great benefit if we spend it as we should. It is a preparation for the life to come and, more immediately, a preparation for the Bright Resurrection.

Just as a stairway is built into a tall building in order to enable one, by climbing the steps, to easily reach the top, so too, the various days in the year serve as steps for our spiritual ascent.

This is especially true of the days of Great Lent and Holy Pascha.

By means of Great Lent we cleanse ourselves of the filth of sin, and at Holy Pascha we experience the blessedness of Christ's Kingdom that is to come. In climbing a high mountain, one tries to eliminate all unnecessary weight. The less a person carries, the easier it is for him to climb and the higher he is able to climb. So, too, in order to ascend spiritually, it is necessary first of all to free oneself from the weight of sin. This weight is lifted from us through repentance, provided that we banish from ourselves all enmity and forgive each person whom we consider to be at fault before us. Once cleansed and forgiven by God, we then greet the Bright Resurrection of Christ.

And what a priceless gift of God we receive, at the culmination of our lenten struggle. We already hear about this in the first hymns of the daily lenten stichera: "Our food shall be the Lamb of God, on the holy and radiant night of His Awakening: the Victim offered for us, given in communion to the disciples on the evening of the Mystery." (Aposticha sticheron, Sunday of the Last Judgment).

Communing of the Body and Blood of the Risen Christ, unto life eternal — this is the aim of the holy Quadragesima [Forty Days]. Not only on Pascha do we commune, but during Lent also. On Pascha those people should commune who have fasted, confessed and received the Holy Mysteries during Great Lent. Just before Pascha itself there is little opportunity for a proper and thorough confession; the priests are very busy and most of the time occupied with the Passion services. Rather one must prepare ahead of time.

Each time one receives the Mysteries of Christ, one is united with Christ Himself; each time it is a soul-saving act. Why, then, is such significance attached to receiving Holy Communion on the night of Holy Pascha, and why are we all called to do so?

Then, especially, we are given to experience the Kingdom of Christ. Then, especially, we are illumined with the Eternal Light and strengthened for the spiritual ascent.

This is an irreplaceable gift of Christ, an incomparable good. Let no one deprive himself of this joy and, instead of receiving Holy Communion on Pascha night, hasten to eat meat and other foods. Communing of the Holy Mysteries on that night prepares us for the banquet in the eternal Kingdom of God.

See also
St. John Made no Compromises, Neither With Himself Nor With Circumstances St. John Made no Compromises, Neither With Himself Nor With Circumstances
On the Commemoration of the uncovering of the relics of St. John of Shanghai; Deacon Andrei Psarev, Maria Reshetnikova
St. John Made no Compromises, Neither With Himself Nor With Circumstances St. John Made no Compromises, Neither With Himself Nor With Circumstances
On the Commemoration of the uncovering of the relics of St. John of Shanghai
Deacon Andrei Psarev, Maria Reshetnikova
In our life it’s simply impossible to meet someone who is both kind and active. Many are active, but they are very cruel; and many are kind, but they do nothing. When you read about Vladyka John and you see what an active and kind man he was, you realize how fortunate it would have been to be his contemporary; he literally and physically save the lives of so many people.
The Dread Judgment The Dread Judgment
St. John of Shanghai
The Dread Judgment The Dread Judgment
St. John of Shanghai
A search for compromise will be the characteristic disposition of men. Straightforwardness of confession will vanish. Men will cleverly justify their fall, and an endearing evil will support such a general disposition. Men will grow accustomed to apostasy from the truth and to the sweetness of compromise and sin.
Fasting According to the Scriptures Fasting According to the Scriptures
Vincent Martini
Fasting According to the Scriptures Fasting According to the Scriptures
Vincent Martini
Notice that Christ mentions the discipline of fasting as a foregone conclusion for his followers. We also see that fasting is pointless if it is not done with the right spirit. Those who fast “publicly” and with great “fanfare” have received their reward, and it is both temporal and fleeting. True fasting is a relational and Spiritual discipline that affects one’s whole person and transforms one into the likeness of Christ.
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Alexander Schmemann
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Alexander Schmemann
In the Orthodox Church, the last Sunday before Great Lent – the day on which, at Vespers, Lent is liturgically announced and inaugurated – is called Forgiveness Sunday. On the morning of that Sunday, at the Divine Liturgy, we hear the words of Christ: "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses..." (Mark 6:14-15)
Sermon on Cheese-Fare Sunday, the Remembrance of Adam’s Expulsion from Paradise Sermon on Cheese-Fare Sunday, the Remembrance of Adam’s Expulsion from Paradise
Archimandrite John (Krestiankin)
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Archimandrite John (Krestiankin)
This judgment of ourselves will tear a living, saving cry from our hearts that will reach the heavens: “Lord! Have mercy on me. O God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” And the miracle of our salvation will begin. The Lord will console our repentant souls and hearts with peace, calm, and love. In the words of our dear elder, St. Seraphim of Sarov, “Acquire the spirit of peace, and thousands will be saved around you”—transformation will begin in life around us.
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Victor Potapov
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Victor Potapov
Forgiveness Sunday is a day a day of strict self-examination, a day on which we examine the extent our spiritual maturity: are we capable of following after Christ, of obeying all of His directions? Many of us know well from personal experience that it is far easier to forgive than to ask forgiveness of one whom we have somehow offended, for our pride interferes with our admitting guilt. The Church constantly teaches that it is only through repentance, spiritual struggle, and efforts toward great abstinence that what had been lost through sin may be sought, found and restored.
Homily on Cheese Fare Sunday. The Condition Prior to Entering the Holy Forty Days Fast Homily on Cheese Fare Sunday. The Condition Prior to Entering the Holy Forty Days Fast
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Homily on Cheese Fare Sunday. The Condition Prior to Entering the Holy Forty Days Fast Homily on Cheese Fare Sunday. The Condition Prior to Entering the Holy Forty Days Fast
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Beloved brethren! We have already reached the very gates of the holy fast! They are even now about to open before us! Already, according to the typicon of the Holy Church, we hear the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ read to us today in the Holy Gospels about the correct way to begin the podvig of fasting.
Sermon before the Fast Sermon before the Fast
Holy Monastery of Axion Estin
Sermon before the Fast Sermon before the Fast
The fact is of real value only when it stems from a pure heart; when one is ready to deny wealth, and stand above money; when one is ready to give alms to the poor; when one has love and affection, not only for one's own children, but also for the orphans and the poor. One manifests real fasting when he is ready to deprive himself of food, in order that the hungry and destitute might be fed. One really fasts when he maintains his equilibrium under all stress, never allowing himself to lose his temper and explode like a volcano, destroying everyone around him.
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