In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
The time of Great Lent is approaching, a time of renewal, cleansing and – most importantly – a time of preparation for the reception of Divinely-healing grace. We all approach with sick souls, bearing on our shoulders the weighty stones of infirmities, sins, and personal imperfections. Who of us does not know how heavy these stones are? Who of us does not know how weak man is? Who of us does not know that we have tried a thousand times to free ourselves from our sins, to shake them off of ourselves – but they once again have hung onto us; and again we have walked bent over, dragging a nasty load, black and filthy.
But the Lord tells us that He is the only gate into the Kingdom of purity and light. Only by turning to Him, only by finding the strength of His grace in prayer, can we come to life, transforming ourselves, and becoming other. But for this we need to prepare ourselves. And so for this the Church gives us the remarkable period of Great Lent, which precedes the joy of the Resurrection.
None of this is accidental, for we must die – and die twice. First, to die along with the Lord. Think about what this means. This means that He suffered for the salvation of other people, and we should bear our difficulties and suffering of life – which are perhaps not that great – but still bear them as a cross, namely as our cross. And, as it were, to die with Him continually. And we should also die to sin. What does that mean? It means that we should so adjust our conscience, soul, and our life, so that sin would become disgusting to us. Of course, it will tempt us; of course, it will show its power over us – but, still, we will be its enemies. We will not welcome it; we will not let it into our lives willingly; we will fight to the last, even though our strength is small.
Dying thus in repentance and bearing our cross, we will arrive at the day of Holy Pascha. And those of us who will be ready, those of us who will truly travel this path, will meet with the true grace of Christ. The Church does everything to make this come to pass.
Today we are reminded of Adam’s fall, of our common sinfulness – for Adam is all of us. We have all fallen from God; we have all gone our own ways. We are all in disobedience, in self-willed wandering, and all of us stand before the face of Divine mercy. No matter how sinful and weak a person is, if he desires to change his life, the Lord will send him the strength for this.
Finally, very important words of Christ show us today that our preparation is in our own hands. The Lord Jesus says: “If you want your Heavenly Father to forgive you, then you must forgive those who are guilty before you” [c.f., Matthew 6:14]. In fact, how clear, simple, and logical this all is. Can we say: “Lord, forget, blot out, cross out,” when in our hearts there is malice, and guarded and protected rancor? No, of course not. Therefore, today the Church calls us to forgiveness. We cannot live with one another without forgiveness, for each man is always guilty before others: a husband before his wife, children before their parents, parents before their children, neighbors before their neighbors. We are people, living people, and if we are unable to forgive one another, then the whole world would turn into hell, and chaos would reign.
Let us make a start today. Let us recall all the evil that is in our lives, and leave it at the threshold of Great Lent. I know, of course, that this is difficult; but this is a work of God, this is the call of Christ, it is worth our sacrifice. “Now is the acceptable time,” the Church tells us, and we cry out with the mouth of the Psalmist: “Do Thou open unto me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life.” And teach me to repent; teach me to see my own sins, and do not forsake me when I in desperation see how great is their multitude, how great is their strength, like the insurmountable power of sin. So that at the moment when I say to myself that there is no salvation for me, that there is no forgiveness for me, and that there is no healing for me – so that then I would know that there is, that it is given to us by the Spirit of Christ, by Christ the Saviour, Who is invisibly present here, living among us, Who came into this world so that not a single person would perish, but would have eternal life. Amen.
Translated from the Russian.