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Guest Viewpoints

What Does Great Lent Mean For Us Today?

We are already in the second week of the Great Lent, which is going to lead us in front of an empty tomb, the tomb of the Resurrected Christ. But it is really inconceivable as to how “the real life” Christ was placed under the earth, in a tomb. It is definitely a measure of a loving and salvific emptiness.

The Great Lent is a march towards to our inner self. Usually, we march towards in outside destinies trying to achieve social recognition, professional advancement, acquiring knowledge and goods, but it seems that not very often do we make a turn toward what is inside us.

I think it is good and beneficial from time to time to open a dialogue with ourselves. We should invite God to our company. God and man, the two of us, in a close relationship.

After all, this is what faith is all about: the establishment of trusting relationship that leads to the “knowledge of God” based on love. What poet Kostis Palamas said is true: “the more you know [someone] the more you love [him]”.

I have the sense that a march toward the self means the beginning of the departure from the earthly level to another level with the Church leading the way.

Let me explain that when I use the term “Church” I don’t mean the hierarchical or clerical administration, but I mean the Church as the place and the way where God and man meet. When I say “man” I mean human beings, male and female. There is not discrimination whatsoever: “all of us are one in Jesus Christ” as St. Paul said so clearly.

The Great Lent is a march and an encounter with Christ, who comes freely, loving, and willingly as a Bridegroom in the middle of the night because He loves us with extreme passion and He reminds us that we are children of God, and we are His brothers.

This sacred and unique period of the Great Lent has nothing to do with pietistic sentimentalisms or fundamentalist religiosities, but it is rather an invitation or calling if you wish to live and experience the Church.

It is a calling to the self-realization of who we are and whose we are. That we have been called to become more human, more divine, Godlier, every day – in other words, to become saints in freedom and free in sainthood.

Heaven starts here, and in that respect death is temporary because Christ’s resurrection pulverizes it. The resurrection of man not an extension of some kind of life, but as “Theoptia,” which means constant vision of God “face to face.” Again, God and man – the two of us.

Salvation, about which many sermons will be delivered these days, is not an abstract idea, or a theorem of psychological settlings. Our salvation is God.

It starts from the moment of the denial of our self-justification and self-salvation. In this way, this biological phenomenon of ours, which is of limited duration from our birth to our death, which we call life, acquires meaning and death which is our unavoidable common tragedy of all of us it becomes less tragic.

Our encounter with Christ takes place in the Church. It is not a theoretical encounter but an ontological one. It is nearness or rather a unity between God and man, man and God through the communion of Body and the Blood of Christ Who is the One of the Trinity.

The Church is convened in the Eucharist, which is the Paschal Supper through which we become “of the same body and the same blood of Christ” as St. Nicholas Kavasilas, who was a par excellence Liturgical Father of the 14th century, has said. Thus, we become brothers and sisters of the same-food and the same-way of existence and we coexist by loving others and by being loved by them.

Actually, this is the only relationship that should exist among the members of the Church. Many times I wonder how distant we are from all these! The institutionalization and the hierarchical religiosity has totally confused in our days what the Church is and what the Church is not.

Today, we seem to place more emphasis on the man-made ritualistic rubrics, canons, rules, and regulations; we lose the spirit and the message of Church. It seems to me that many times these canons and canonicity, the regulations and the imposed pseudo-pietistic moralism overshadow the grace, the love, and philanthropy of Christ.

Our churches are empty because we have lost “the mind of Christ.” The time to rediscover the essentials of the Orthodox Church is long overdue. I think the Great Lent is a good opportunity to do so.

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