The purpose of Great Lent, by Deacon Nicholas Park

Russian version (followed by English) is at:

Beloved brothers and sisters, what is the purpose of Great Lent?

The purpose of the Great Fast is the same as that of our entire life: the attainment of God's likeness. Last Sunday we heard about the Last Judgment, when at the 2nd coming of our Lord we will all be judged on the basis of our works of mercy — on the extent to which we have become like our merciful and loving God.

"The night is past, the day is at hand," says the Apostle Paul, "therefore, put aside the works of darkness and clothe yourselves in the armor of light."

The night is the life of this sinful world, life according to the flesh, life without Christ. The day is life in Christ, life in the Church, illumined by the Light of Christ. Great Lent is given us in order that we might obtain that life in Christ, that we might acquire the divine likeness.

And what "armor of light" does the fast give to us? What must we do to become children of light? First, we must remember that "by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves" — and the Holy Church thus instructs us to humble ourselves and run to God for help. And during Lent, we should fervently run to the sources of Divine Grace given us in the Church: the Holy Mysteries of Repentance and Communion.

And this is not all. The Church also provides us with sources of Divine Grace which involve an effort on our part — and this is important, because salvation is impossible without the active participation of our own will. These are prayer, fasting, reading the Holy Scriptures and almsgiving. May the Lord grant that all of us would make proper use of this armor, of these means of acquiring the grace of God!

But the Holy Church also warns us: when using this armor – fasting, prayer, almsgiving — keep your eyes on God and on your own soul. Whether other people see your good works is not important. On the contrary, it is safer for you if all these works are done in secret, for our Lord says, " when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

Are others doing good? This is not our business. " Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand." And if your brother offends you, then forgive him. For our Lord says, "if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

May the Lord help us all to successfully struggle during this time of Great Lent, so that we might worthily meet the bright and glorious day of Christ's Pascha, so that we might worthily meet the end of our own lives, and so that we might worthily, by God's grace, meet Christ as His second coming.

Deacon Nicholas Park

Russian version (followed by English) is at:

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5 Responses to “The purpose of Great Lent, by Deacon Nicholas Park”

  1. helen says:

    Thank you for this beautiful sermon, Deacon Nicholas.  It's good to be reminded every day about the goal of our Lenten Journey, and of all of our life, to become like God: humble and patient.  So is it correct that the main thing is not the fasting and praying, et cetera, but the softening of our hearts towards each person who we have contact with each day?
    Father Seraphim, thanks and please keep posting all these wonderful articles and instructions regarding Great Lent.  I'm looking forward to reading them and learning from them!

  2. Dn. Nicholas Park says:

    "Is it correct that the main thing is not the fasting and praying, et cetera, but the softening of our hearts towards each person who we have contact with each day?"
    Yes, I think that is accurate. As Fr. Seraphim said in his homily last week, quoting St. John: "If you love not your brother whom you have seen, how can you love God Whom you have not seen?"

  3. helen says:

    Thank you, Deacon Nicholas.  But I just want to add one more thing.  I know that without my prayers to the Lord, that I am nothing.  I don't just mean that as an empty phrase.  I mean that God is my medicine and I really feel uplifted and healthier when I pray.  And if I go too long without prayer I get really weighed down with the stress of life.  So it must be that they work together: Prayer AND striving to be like the Lord.

  4. Amen, Helen. We are called to be like God with God, and it is only possible by His power and in close communion with Him. Our own strength is nothing.

  5. helen says:

    Thank you again, Deacon Nicholas.  With just a few words you made it very clear to me why it is so.  So it's only possible to be like Him (by, with or because of) His power and while staying or keeping in close communion with Him (through prayer and receiving Holy Communion).  And that explains why we cannot do it alone. "Our own strength is nothing."

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