In this period, we have two fasts, as we all know. There are about seven weeks of strict fasting, eight if you include the Cheese-fare week which precedes. For a lot of people this is an enjoyable and desirable time, for others it’s difficult and for others again not at all pleasant. We’ll try to convey some thoughts on this period, as it has been described by the Fathers of the Church.
First of all, let’s recall Saint John the Damascan, who made a general observation concerning Lent. ‘Do not weaken Lent, for it is an imitation of Christ’s way of life’. This is important. Christ doesn’t debilitate, that is drain the power of Lent. More broadly, we might say that Saint John doesn’t disparage Lent. He doesn’t say that this period isn’t right, nor does he mock the fast of the Church. He doesn’t dishonour it, he’s not displeased when it arrives, he doesn’t hope for it to pass quickly, he doesn’t make a show of breaking it without reason and nor does he express forcefully the view that times have changed and we must change with them.
Great Lent is an imitation of the life of Christ. After His baptism, He went out into the wilderness and there ‘having fasted for forty days and forty nights, he became hungry’ (Matth. 4, 2). Christ was the perfect human being and had no disposition to sin, but He needed to give us a model. We had to have an image of asceticism before us in order to achieve our goal, which is union with God. During this period, He suffered the temptations of the devil and during the time of these temptations, ‘angels ministered to him’ (Mark, 1, 13).This time of Christ’s temptations has much to teach us.
On the feast of the Presentation of our Lord, it is the custom to bless candles in the Church. One of the things that I am reminded of this day is how similar our own spiritual life is to a candle. The flame…the Light and Love of Christ…is ignited within us at Chrismation, providing within us a natural illumination to protect us from the darkness.
St. Nikolai of Zica once said:
“Candles remind us that before anything else, the Creator of the world created light, and after that, everything else in Order: “And God said, let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). And so it must be so also at the beginning of our spiritual life…so that before anything else, the light of Christ’s truth would shine in us. From this light of Christ’s truth, subsequently, every good is created, springs up, and grows in us.
This past year, how many times have we either experienced or heard stories of those who have been driven to the brink of despair, shrouded in darkness, and seemingly absent of hope? As difficult as things have been for us Orthodox Christians, imagine how much more difficult it must be to those who do not have the light of Christ in their lives…who have been bumping into the proverbial “coffee tables” and searching for the “matches of meaning” where they can’t be found. It is our calling as bearers of Christ’s Light to illuminate not just our own lives, but all of those who are searching for that gentle presence of Christ in the midst of chaos.
A home without a lit oil lamp in front of icons is cold and dark, but when you have a lit oil
lamp in front of your icons, you are giving yourself a physical reminder of the energy of
the Holy Spirit in the home.
We should "electrify" our homes, to have the energy of the Holy Spirit in them, with holy
icons, oil lamps, holy water, incense and our prayers.
In a home where there is blasphemies and yelling, it is natural that it will have an energy
opposite to that of the energy of the Holy Spirit.
If there is one person in that home, who takes care to resist the energy of Satan, that
person will pray in the home, will have icons, will take care to sprinkle the home with holy
water, then the Grace of God will defeat the presence of the devil.