The Great Fast, Lent, is upon us and we have already completed more than a week. These days are given to us each year to renew our faith: we could think of it as a health check-up or an MOT. Where are you in your life of Faith? Has it grown within you or is it diminishing in significance?
Fasting by itself is just keeping a diet — some people are good at doing this, some people less so. But this is not the meaning of fasting: it should be accompanied by prayer, by giving money away to the poor, by spiritual reading. If all we do is give up meat but replace it with huge bowls of pasta, rice or potatoes then we are missing the point of Lent and we will receive no benefit: even worse we become like the Pharisees — we pray with ourselves rather than to the living God, we see the speck in another’s eye while ignoring the log in our own, we become legalistic and judgemental.
It is a pious tradition to go to Confession at this time of year as we prepare for Pascha — do you wish to do so? Often people go to monasteries though this can be difficult: our nearest one would be the Monastery of St John the Baptist, Essex which is 140 miles away by car, a big commitment to get there but well worth it if you can. There is also the monastery of our Archdiocese in Shropshire (190 miles). Please speak to me if you would like more information.
When we speak of education we often think of children, yet for Fr Theodore he sees education as a much wider field. Fr Theodore spoke on Education from 49’38”.
Are you willing to learn? We cannot pass on what we do not know: it is not enough to expect our children, our new-comers and our faithful to pick-up the Faith through solely attending one service a week. We have to be talking about our Faith around our dinner tables and at our social gatherings too.
For this to work, you need to take your Faith seriously. Whatever your educational background you need to desire to learn: those who know more in the Faith have a greater responsibility to set an example to others. How can we learn better?
To be content with our current level of learning in the Faith is to allow our Faith to die within us — our children, not only our own by blood but all our children, are excellent at spotting hypocrisy in our life of Faith and will emulate how we behave rather than what we tell them half-heartedly.
Are you willing to learn?
News of Future Services
While we wait for an answer from the Church we have approached, are you willing to seek a temporary venue on behalf of us all?
We would need somewhere:
- in Eastleigh
- with parking
- preferably near train station or bus routes
- place for preparation of food (does not need to be a “full kitchen” but enough to make tea and coffee as well as do washing up afterwards)
This could be a hall we could hire for a few hours for example.
Is this a service you could offer for the sake of the Church? Are you willing to be a founder of God’s Church in Eastleigh? Get in touch: email email@example.com.
We need to be praying, too, that the patron of our new community will identify himself, herself or themselves to us. I believe it will not be so much that we choose, rather we need to pray that the choice be revealed to us.
Our Facebook Page, facebook.com/orthodoxeastleigh, too, has daily additions during the week as well as on feast days. Please do like and share our page and content so we may reach a wider group of people.
Do you receive the weekly (on Fridays) text message? If not, then let me know.
This past Sunday, the first of the Great Fast, is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy. I preached on this Sunday last year, Have we started the Fast?
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.
We have, my brothers and sisters in Christ, completed the first week of the Great Fast. These sacred forty days which the Church sets before us is for our benefit and growing in faith. We give up eating meat, give up eating flesh. What is more significant here is not the meat we buy in the butcher’s or supermarket but the flesh of our neighbour. Each time we look down on him as he stumbles we break the Fast, each time we gossip about another we dishonour ourselves and descend into further sin, each time our actions cause another to sin we will answer for that sin, whether in confession or on the dread Last Day.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, have you, have I, even after a week, started the Fast? Have we brought ourselves before the Lord in prayer? Have we been charitable? Or have we become irritable and angry because we have no milk in our tea and coffee? Would our neighbours, our friends, our colleagues, our fellow students, notice a change in us for the better? Are we becoming more prayerful, more peaceful, more loving? Have we, even after a week, started the Fast?
This is not to diminish the abstinence from certain foods, the dietary rules are important, but they are to facilitate our turning towards God, not to turn us away. The Lord desires all to come to him but it is by the narrow gate, a difficult way, that we journey to life. Our fasting is to train us for the journey.
The Church offers us encouragement along the way, fans cheering in the stands as we compete in the stadium, and today we commemorate the Faith of our Church, the Victory of Icons. The icons are, in the words of the great saint of our Church John of Damascus, “an image of the invisible God, … having become visible for our sakes through flesh and blood.” It is through the icons where we come into the presence of the Divine One and of his saints. The icons are a reminder to us of our being “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” so, therefore, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” They are here in our presence, or rather, we are here in their presence, and they support us, encourage us, challenge us, guide us, admonish us, help us, raise us up, pray for us.
Continue reading here.
Saints and Feasts
Sunday 15th March — St Gregory Palamas & Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy
The second Sunday of the Great Fast is always dedicated to St Gregory Palamas. He was Archbishop of Thessalonica in the 14th century and a defender of Hesychasm which keeps the wholeness of human beings, both soul and body, in united prayer. Read more.
St Aristobulus was one of the Seventy and is mentioned in Scripture (Romans 16:10). Not much is known about him except that he came to Britain and was the first bishop here. Read more.
Tuesday 17th March — St Patrick of Ireland
The work of St Patrick has made him famous throughout the world. He preached faithfully the Gospel throughout Ireland in the fifth century and is a great example of what can be achieved by faith in Christ and allowing God to work through his servants. Read more.
Can I help you?
I am here for you, you need only ask. Is there a way I can support your life of faith? Get in touch.
Can you help the mission?
Yes, absolutely. Offer yourselves to the Lord: pray! Make available to him all your talents and ask him how he would like you to use them — listen for his reply.
I ask your prayers for me.
With love in Christ