St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

November 2008

Fr. Antony Portrait

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 
Hear these words from St. Isaac of Syria: 
 
    O unspeakable wealth, O ocean rich in its billows and its marvelous treasures,
    which abundantly spill forth by the power of faith! How filled with boldness,
    how replete with sweetness and hope is the journey accompanied by faith! 
    How light are faith's burdens, how sweet its labors!
 
We are about to enter into a period of preparation called Advent.  It is the forty day time of fasting and prayer that leads us to the celebration of the Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ.  Fasting, if done properly, should not lead to despair and a heavy heart, but rather to a greater desire to enter into communion with God.  Therefore, we should be careful how we enter into the fast. 
 
Fasting that does not involve a change of mind, attitude and approach to life will be a waste of time.  Fasting is not "giving up something" it is reaching for something else!  Instead of accepting the ridiculous claim that happiness is to be found outside of the heart, Advent is a time to look deeply into life and notice that whenever we have tried to find satisfaction in possessions, relationships, careers or any other thing in the world, we have come up short.  The truth is happiness is to be found only within for "the kingdom of heaven is within you."  We abstain from the outside world so that we can pay more attention to what is going on within.
 
So, meditation and prayer are the essential elements for Advent that are meant to be supported by fasting, not the other way around.  See Advent as a time to learn how to connect with God through meditation and prayer.  Let fasting from food, television, entertainment, etc. free you to spend more time in doing what is necessary to awaken the soul from its deep sleep.  Fasting is a tool.  Communion with God is the goal.
 
I am praying that our entire community enters into Advent with devotion and purpose.  May God bless all of us this holy season.
 
Your servant in Christ,

Fr. Antony