St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

March 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“The Lenten Spring has come, the light of repentance.”  The time of “bright sadness” that leads to joy and resurrection.  Of course, there is no reason why all seasons cannot be filled with such spiritual beauty, but Lent provides an added impetus as we travel together with good companions.  Who you walk beside is as important as the journey itself. And as we journey, remember, our destination is not a place, as Henry Miller, but a new way of seeing things. 

We will hear much talk of spiritual warfare and internal battles during Lent. I think we need a new understanding of what this means.  Too often this perspective turns into a kind of self-hatred. We end up battling incessantly against the most damaged parts of us, turning our suffering into an enemy to be extinguished rather than an injured part in need of tender loving care.  In this way, we make things worse for ourselves.

I think we need to “turn our swords into plowshares” and turn the internal war into an internal peace. That is, stop fighting and start loving.  The point of the spiritual struggle is to stop the war.

Here I must refer once again to the great new saint, Porphyrios, who advises just that:

“There are two paths that lead to God: the hard and debilitating path with fierce assaults against evil, and the easy path of love. There are many who chose the hard path and shed blood in order to receive Spirit until they attained great virtue. I find the shorter and safer route is the path of love.

That is, you can make a different kind of effort: to study and pray and have your aim to advance in the love of God and of the Church. Do not fight to expel darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for the light to enter, and the darkness will disappear.  The same holds true for our passions and desires. Do not fight them, but transform them into strengths by showing disdain for evil."

Do not choose negative methods to correct yourselves. There is no need to fear the devil, hell or anything else. These things provoke a negative reaction...The object is to live, to study, to pray and to advance in love...”

What marvelous advice!  I also think love is the best way to approach Lent and all of life.  So, let’s study and pray and make it our aim to advance as best we can in the way of Compassion. God is love, is he not, so I wonder whose path goes the opposite way?

In His Love,

Fr. Antony