March 2008

Fr. Antony Portrait Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

“The Lenten spring has come, the Light of repentance…”  

The laying down of burdens is what Great Lent is all about. We lay aside the “earthly cares” of sin and self-indulgence that lead to suffering.  We need not see Lent as a time of sacrifice, but rather as a time of letting go of the things that do us harm.  That, my friends, is not sacrifice. That is sanity.

Letting go is the key.  Loosening our grasp on patterns of behavior and thoughts that are harmful, from emotions that disturb us and from anything that even gives the appearance of hurting others is what we must do to progress spiritually.  Unless we let go, we cannot be free. Abstinence from material things like food and drink and television help us in the overall effort. We must stop grasping little things so that we can learn to let go of bigger things.  Metropolitan PHILIP said in his sermon on the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, “We refuse to be redeemed.”  We do because we refuse to let go of those things that offer redemption, but cannot deliver.

We hold on to the things we think give us life, but life cannot be gained by grasping things that are temporal, ever-changing and, in fact, dying.  Only God is eternal, unchanging and undying. In Great Lent the Church tries to show us this truth by weaning us away from “earthly “ (temporal things) and placing before us a different path, different, but wholly accessible.

Once we have let go we discover a freedom that may frighten us and leave us at a loss. “Now what do I do?” This is the moment when great things begin to happen.  We discover a paradise of stillness and silence within where the “still, small voice” speaks, where the Holy Spirit through the grace of Holy Baptism resides, the source of living water, the temple of God, the kingdom of heaven.  “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.  Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly of heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my burden is light…”

We feel heavy, distressed, and anxious because the yoke we bear is not the light burden of Christ.  We will know when we have put down the heavy burden of the world when our mental and physical suffering begins to fade, when the knot in our stomachs begins to unwind and the tension in our shoulders and backs releases.  Spirituality, we Orthodox know, is spiritual and physical.  Otherwise why would we trouble ourselves with prostrations and physical abstinence?  Rest your mind. Take a break from the incessant inner dialogue and mental flights of fancy. Release the tensions in your mind and relax the tight muscles in your body. Let the past and future go and be present as fully as you can in the present moment. “Be still and know.”  Let the Name of Jesus be as the air you breathe. God is here in this very moment. Take on the light and liberating yoke of Christ this Lent and perhaps, as you begin to taste and see the wondrous fruit of freedom, you may never again set it down.

With deepest love,
Fr. Antony