“The lenten journey begins thus with a return to the ‘starting point’–the world of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, the world in which all things speak of God and reflect His glory, in which all events are referred to God, in which man finds the true dimension of his life, and having found it, repents” (Great Lent: Journey to Pascha).
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I greet you with joy as we complete the first week of Great Lent. As many of you know, the Church helps us and guides on to the path of repentance and amendment of life through praying the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete during the beginning of Lent. It is a wonderful way to begin this holy season by bringing to mind all the accounts of repentance in the Holy Scriptures.
Fr. Alexander Schmemann says it well in his book Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, “It can be described as a penitential lamentation conveying to us the scope and depth of sin, shaking the soul with despair, repentance, and hope”.
Consider some of the prayers we’ve prayed this week from the Canon:
Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer to Thee O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion, grant me release from my falls.
Adam was rightly exiled from Eden for not keeping Thy one commandment, O Savior. But what shall I suffer who am always rejecting Thy living words? (Heb. 12:25; Gen. 3:23)
Come out, my soul, from sin, from the land of Haran! Come into the land of eternal life flowing with incorruption which Abraham inherited. (Gen. 12:4)
Return, repent, uncover what is hidden. Say to God Who knows everything: Thou knowest my secrets, O only Saviour; but have mercy on me, as David sings, according to Thy mercy. (Ps. 50(51) )
Heal, O Saviour, the corruption of my debased soul, O only Physician. Apply the compress to me, and the oil of wine–works of repentance, compunction and tears. (Lk. 10:34)
The Church has acquired Thy life-giving side as a chalice, from which gushes forth for us a twofold torrent of forgiveness and knowledge as a type of the two covenants, Old and New, O our Saviour.
O my Judge and my Light Who alone knowest me and art coming again with Thine Angels to judge the whole world, regard me then with Thy merciful Eye and spare me, O Jesus. And have compassion on me who have sinned more than all mankind. (Matt. 25:31-32)
Great Lent calls us to return to God, through prayer, through fasting, through reading the Holy Scriptures, through alms-giving, and through the services of the Church. The services of the Church are therapeutic. The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete captures this perfectly! May we heed what the Church teaches us through the Canon of St. Andrew so that we may have a fruitful, God-glorifying Lent, to arrive joyfully to His Holy Pascha!
I wish you all “good strength!” as we continue to dive deeper into the school of repentance–Great Lent.