On the struggle of Great Lent

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Elder Ephraim of Arizona

At this time we’re entering the great spiritual arena of the blessed Great Lent. Holy and Great Lent is a time of compunction, for repentance, for tears, for a change in ourselves, for a new stage in the spiritual life. Like an affectionate mother caring for her children, us Christians, the Church has designated this time of Lent as dedicated to the struggle, in order to help its children fight harder, to purify themselves, draw closer to God and to be counted worthy of celebrating the great day of the radiant Resurrection.
Christians, especially monks, have always paid particular attention to this spiritual arena and have thought it especially sacred, because it’s a period which envisages both spiritual and bodily struggles. There’s the struggle of fasting, the struggle of vigils, the struggle of purification and the struggle to fulfill one’s spiritual duties which are many more than at other times of the year. There’s a spiritual “defragmentation” and people pay greater attention to the voice of their conscience in order to correct what they’ve maybe neglected and to improve spiritually.
The Church assists us but with penitential hymns and services, as well as with teachings, to oil us up for the fight for the purification of our souls.

Intensity, Freedon and Joy: A Lenten Message

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Stelyios S. Muksuris, Ph.D., Th.D.
Protopresbyter & Professor of Liturgy and Theology  
”THE DIVINE SERVICES OF THE CHURCH are words in which we converse and speak to God with our worship and with our love. The hours spent closest to Paradise are the hours spent in the church together with all our brethren when we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, when we sing and when we receive Holy Communion. [However] whatever you do under compulsion and whatever causes your soul to kick instinctively and protest, causes you harm.” (St. Porphyrios the Athonite Elder, Wounded by Love, p. 165)
Man’s inborn instinct has always been to worship, to transcend his own existence in the hopes of connecting meaningfully and influentially with a higher divine power. The annals of archaeological history have rendered magnificent religious edifices as proof of this innate need to honor one’s God or gods. In Orthodox Christian theology, this instinct rests in man’s creation in God’s very image and likeness; we imitate the Lord in His communicative and interpersonal nature. The transcendent and omnipotent God condescends to the lowliness of our fallen human nature out of pure love and mercy, to reestablish an implied tender relationship with humanity that He initiated from the beginning. Worship simply gives us a venue to be with God and one another as a family and to interact — nothing more, nothing less.

Self-control in difficult straits and the transformational power of prayer

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In Andrew A. Lubusko’s 2006 dissertation on self-control and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, he notes that fatigue, emotional stress, and cognitive overload are primary factors in self-control failure. When we are tired, we become less aware of ourselves and what we are doing. When we are anxious, we are too worried about the future to be concerned with controlling ourselves in the present. When we are depressed, we are often so wrapped up in our past failures that present goals, such as self-control, seem pointless. And when we are thinking about solving this issue or that, how can we have mental energy left over to solve the problem of ourselves in the present moment. Clearly, being tired, upset, and distracted are psychological states that make continued self-control in the face of temptations difficult and perhaps in the long run impossible. And in contemporary life, such conditions are almost our default state

"Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"

Mathew 28:19