First Sunday of Lent – 2020

My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!

On this first Sunday of Lent, the first Sunday of the Great Fast, we celebrate the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, of “right glory.” “Right glory,” that is what “orthodoxy” means; not “right thinking,” “right opinion,” “right believing,” although surely all of those are important. No, it is “right glory;” glorifying God rightly, and in truth.

Today’s feast was instituted in the year 843 by Saint Methodios to celebrate the confirmation of the veneration of holy icons of our Lord and the saints, and the defeat of the wicked heresy of the iconoclasts.

We hold this feast and remember its import to this day, for it is a living memory for us. In so doing we keep and uphold the ancient tradition of the Church; we follow the tradition of the dogmatic definitions and the canons of our holy and God-bearing fathers and teachers, and we accept and honour the holy Ecumenical Councils, along with those particular local councils which were gathered by the Holy Spirit.

Those whom they accepted and honoured we also now honour. Those whom they put under condemnation we also condemn, just as we anathematise and cut off all heresy and blasphemy.

With the fathers, we anathematize those who add anything to, or take away anything from, the Church. With the fathers, we anathematize the false gospels introduced by demons disguised as angels of light or heavenly beings. With the fathers, we anathematize the novelties introduced by heretics who revile the faith once delivered to the saints.

Such was the mindset of our holy fathers and teachers in contending for the Orthodoxy, and such must be our mindset today. Indeed, the Lord Who loves mankind accepted their labours and sufferings for the love Him and for the treasure of the faith left unto us.

Truly blessed, then, are all who with undoubting hearts keep the divine traditions and teachings which were established and handed down by them. Blessed are they who detest those things which were condemned and repudiated by them, and who reject blasphemous traditions and ideas. Blessed are they who, along with a right faith, display a right manner of life, good and virtuous; for unless we have good works, our faith is dead, and a dead faith cannot save us.

For it is all well and good to define what we reject, to express what we are not to be. But the one who takes delight in discovering evil will – without fail – fall into evil. But we are to avoid evil.

So let us during this Lent, this season of prayer and abstinence and spiritual sobriety strive also to perform good works. For the present season of Lent is salutary for all people, of every age and origin. God’s grace is not withheld from anyone who wishes to do good, whether that person be wise or simple, rich or poor.

For the Fast, my friends is not merely that which we see externally; not merely a matter of eating less food, or a restriction of the kinds of food one may eat. In its essence, the Fast is a renewal of the human heart; it is a chastened way of life. It is a purification and sanctification of souls. For even should we see that through our fast the appetites and desires of the outer man are weakened, the inner man is refreshed. Such is the grace of the Fast that it makes us dwelling-places of God.

For we are commanded not only to fast from foods, but also to refrain from everything evil. Let us put aside sloth, carelessness, despondency, envy, jealousy, bad habits, self-satisfaction, and self-will. Let us leave behind ill-gotten gain, stealing, injustice, slander, lies, oath-breaking, drunkenness, murder, thievery, gluttony, fornication, and every impurity.

“Orthodoxy.” “Right glory.” Let us glorify God. Let us be alert and attentive for hymnody and reading, and let us bend our knees and make the prostrations as we are taught by tradition.

“Right glory.” Let us bear one another’s burdens. In some things one may be weak and another is strong, and the reverse may be true for other things. So we bear the burdens one of the other in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who bore all for our sakes.

“Right glory.” The life of grace. Let us live in a manner worthy of the promises we have made at our Baptism. Having received the garment of grace let us strive to preserve it pure and undefiled. For these promises of ours were given so that, if our deeds truly bear out our words, we shall be crowned with incorruptible crowns, and shall be heirs with Christ of the heavenly kingdom. But if we are shown to be false, we shall be punished as hypocrites and liars, as having preferred transitory things over things immortal.

“Right glory.” In whatever state of life we find ourselves, let us joyfully meet the duties of that state. Those of you who are married, be mindful that you too are clothed with incorruptible grace, being dressed in a wedding garment; do not defile it with sinful impurity. Husbands and wives, keep your marriage honourable and pure in all intentions and in all works, for this is well-pleasing to God. If you will do these things, you will not be far from the kingdom of heaven.

Parents, show justice, clemency, protection – and above all, love – towards your children, since their care has been given to you by God Himself.

In short, do whatever good you are able to do. Do not insult anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not exalt yourselves over anyone; do not hate anyone. Do not depart from the fellowship of the Church. Give alms to those in need. Do not covet anything of one another.

Let us flee from every wickedness, every injustice, every sin into which we may fall in thought, word, or deed, and let our lives be found well-pleasing in God’s sight. Let us go forth in peace and without reproach. Let us head out on this great journey of Lent, this journey towards the remembrance of the great day of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be right glory now and ever and unto all ages.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.