Archdiocese News - THE FIRST WEEK OF Great LENT [English/Arabic]

[Arabic]

This week is the first week of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church. The last Sunday before Lent is called “Cheese-fare Sunday”, being the last day permitted eating eggs and dairy products or whiteness in liturgical cycle is called "Sunday of Forgiveness", as the Evangelical readings from Matthew (6:14-21).

Also, this Sunday we recall the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise because of their sin. God created Adam in His image and likeness. And settled him in paradise; “in the sweetness of life and living with God”, in a lasting partnership with him and gave him one rule, wanting him to be faithful to Him, he gave commandment to obedience, but Adam choose disobedience under the devil enticement by saying, "Both of you won't die. As God knows that the day when you eat from it your eyes open-up and you will be like God knowing good and evil."

This is a grand trial:  To try to become gods without God, with our own personal strength and not in the life-giving energies of God.

On this day the Church presents before us the Icon of Adam, sitting in front of the gate of paradise which is shut in his face grief-stricken on losing paradise;

We read at Vespers: "Verily, Adam sat opposite paradise, bewailing and ‎slapping his face saying: O compassionate One, have mercy upon me who am fallen.”

In each Sunday of Great Lent at Matins we sing "open the doors of repentance, Thou Giver of Life". Is it possible to restore and open the doors of paradise? Of course, it's possible. As we are able to regain the lost paradise through repentance. Some may think that opening the doors of paradise will be after death, at eternal life.  But here we open the doors of paradise of this life and while we are still in our lives on earth.  Who has in his heart hate and malice cannot live paradise there. The one that has love, peace and repentance; lives in paradise here on this earth. The Lord

Jesus gave us in the evangelical understanding of today what we need to complete our Lenten journey:
"if forgive others trespasses your heavenly father forgive you."
"If you have fasted, be not like the hypocritical".
"When you pray, pray in hiding to your Heavenly Father."
Finally: "Don’t gather you treasures on earth".

That's what we need from the spiritual tools during Holy Lent, forgiveness, fasting, prayer and alms giving.
Fasting in the Orthodox Church is abstinence and exclusion. Abstention from eating an animal products, fasting from food for a specific period of time, until midday. But more importantly, during fasting to refrain one’s self from doing evil and to cut off the evil thoughts.

We read in a prayer of forgiveness: "To start the time of fasting in pleasure offering ourselves to the spiritual struggles to purify the sole and sanctify the body by abstaining from passions like fasting on foods and enjoying with virtues of the spirit, which if we accomplish with passion we would deserve to witness the passions of Christ our God most holy and to witness Holy Easter with Spiritual with spiritual joyfulness”.

Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise when they by-passed God’s Commandment which God gave them in paradise. The commandment of obedience by keeping the fast “not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil." Adam fall by eating but we return to paradise by keeping the commandment of fasting.

The Church teaches us not to confine the fast only in staying away from foods. Because fasting is a real move away from evil.

Saint Basil the great writes:
"If you don’t eat meat in Lent but unfortunately you eat the flesh of your brother. And if you did not drink any wine but can’t hold your tongue from swearing”.

Fasting is a divine commandment was given to the first human in paradise but was not kept. All prophets, righteous and the saints, knew and experienced the importance of fasting in spiritual life. And all the Saints kept this patristic tradition which they received, and they delivered it to us.

Fasting is a sole watcher and an honest friend for the soul, fasting is a guard and companion of body, fast is silence companion and the maker of chastity.

We pray to the Lord to assist us all in this Blessed Holy Fasting, that we may reap the benefits at the end of the Holy Forty Days.
Amine!

+Metropolitan Basilios



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