March 14, 2013
Lenten Epistle of
His Eminence Metropolitan
H I L A R I O N
of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Eminent Brother Archpastors, Honorable Father-Concelebrants, Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:
As we approach Great Lent, I hasten to ask forgiveness from you all, as well as your holy prayers for my unworthiness. I earnestly call upon all the children of the Russian Church Abroad to exert all your efforts towards self-contemplation, to examine your lives, to augment your prayers, to attend all the edifying divine services of Great Lent and to read spiritually beneficial books during these days of salvation! Great Lent, with its divine services and spiritually-moving church singing and readings, grants us abundant nourishment for our souls. Let us not fail to take advantage of what the Holy Church offers us during this beneficial period.
The special Cherubic Hymn that we sing during the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts tells us that we should approach the Chalice of Christ with faith and love if we hope to partake of the eternal blessed life. Beloved ones, we are created for eternity. Therefore, we must lift our minds and hearts to heavenly things, especially as we prepare for the Sacraments; we need to leave behind all worldly cares, pouring our souls out before God in praise, gratitude and prayers of repentance.
True fasting consists not only of abstinence from non-lenten foods, but of distancing oneself from impure thoughts, words and deeds. “Those who abstain from food yet behave badly,” says St Basil the Great (the author of the Liturgy which will be celebrated on Sundays, on Great Thursday and Great Saturday of this Lent), “are like the devil, who, though he eats not, yet sins perpetually.” St Tikhon of Zadonsk, this humble and loving saint of the Church of our Fatherland, meanwhile, teaches us as follows about fasting: “May your mind fast from worldly thoughts; may your will fast from wicked desires; may your ears fast from filthy songs and the whispers of slanderers; may your tongue fast from slander, condemnation, flattery, lies and all sorts of useless, decadent words; may your hands fast from violence and theft of the property of others; may your feet fast from going towards an evil deed. This is indeed the Christian fast, the sort God requires of us.”
Taking all this into account, let us strive to exhibit special effort in prayer, fasting and frequent preparation for the Sacraments, declaring war upon our weaknesses and zealously performing good deeds with the aim of lightening the burden of the cross borne by our neighbors!
I extend heartfelt greetings to all of you with the onset of the “springtime of the soul” and prayerfully wish you blessed success in the podvig of Great Lent, so that on the “feast of feasts,” with spiritual joy and piety, with the sense of Paschal elation and new inner strength, you might bow down in adoration to the Lover of mankind, our God Who rose on the third day, the Originator of our faith and salvation! Amen.
With love in the Lord,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.