St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

March 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Fr. Antony PortraitChrist is in our midst!

We are seeing so many familiar faces in the Gospels these days: Zaccheus the tax-collector, the Syro-Phoenician woman with her possessed child, and soon we will see again the famous Pharisee and Publican and the Prodigal Son. Therefore, all indications are that we are now headed into the period of Great Lent. I encourage you to think about how you will prepare yourselves to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Saviour this year. Remember, it is not a matter of "giving things up for Lent." That is the wrong attitude altogether. Rather, we choose to embrace a spiritual life more focused and full than we normally allow ourselves.

The "normal" state of affairs is that we don't pay much attention to the health and well-being of our souls. While we pander to our physical "needs" our inner lives are neglected and desolate. If we manage to drag ourselves to Divine Liturgy a couple of times a month, then we imagine we have "done our duty." But an hour and a half every other week or so scarcely begins to scratch the surface of the deepest longing of our hearts, which is to know God and share his life. We are so wrapped up in satisfying our physical appetites that we simply cannot proceed into anything more fulfilling unless we say no to them. So we fast in order to deliberately wrench ourselves away from gluttony, lust, anger and self-centeredness.

We do not fast because we are legally bound to do so. We do not fast because if we don't we will go to hell. We do not fast because there is some angry god who revels in our misery. We do not fast to gain spiritual notoriety. Fasting must be a thing of the heart borne out of love and desire for God if it is to be of any use. Spiritual effort has only one focus and that is to share in the life of our All-Loving God. Fasting, done in the right spirit, is a flying leap towards the Kingdom.

If you have questions, please ask. We should no try to do too much nor too little. Balance and sobriety is the key.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Antony