A message from
Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Lenten season is a time of repentance, prayer, and joy in the Lord.
- On Monday of the first week of Great Lent, our Byzantine Church invites us first of all to repentance. In the first prayer of Vespers, we say: “As we set out on the course of the Fast, let us hasten to tame our flesh through abstinence. With prayer and tears, let us seek the Lord our Savior. In order that He may forget our evil deeds, let us say to Him: We have sinned against You, O Christ Our King! Save us as you saved the people of Nineveh of old. In Your compassion grant us a share in Your heavenly Kingdom.” Our sins are always sins against God: “We have sinned against You, O Christ Our King!” That is why the Church invites us to “seek the Lord our Savior.” By sin we live outside God’s Kingdom. That is why we pray that God, in His compassion, grant us a share in His heavenly Kingdom.
- By sin we also live in darkness and we disfigure the image and likeness of God in us. That is why we pray to God in the second prayer of Vespers: “I entreat You: cleanse me in the waters of repentance. And through prayer and fasting, make me shine with light, for You alone are merciful.” Those who recount the lives of the Saints, especially of the hermits in the desert, always mention that their faces shone with light. This light is the Divine Light, the glory of God that filled the Temple of Solomon and that radiated from Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. St. Paul says: “All of us, gazing on the Lord’s glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord Who is Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18) The faces of the Saints were illumined by the radiant glory of Divine Life that filled their hearts.
- The Lenten season is also a season of joy and a time of purification. In the third prayer of Vespers we pray: “Let us enter the season of the radiant Fast with joy, giving ourselves to spiritual combat. Let us purify our spirit and cleanse our flesh. As we fast from food, let us abstain also from every passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit, may we persevere with love, so as to be worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to behold His holy Resurrection.” This Lenten combat is first and foremost a spiritual combat. Our fasting from food has spiritual value only when it used as a weapon in the spiritual battle for our hearts. Fasting is not an end in itself but rather a most effective means in helping us attain liberation from the passions, a necessary condition for our sanctification.
By fully embracing the spiritual combat of Great Lent we prepare ourselves to celebrate with pure and radiant joy the Feast of the Resurrection. In the second hymn of the Orthros on the first day of the Fast, we pray: “Let us joyfully begin the holy season of abstinence. Let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy Commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity and the strength of good courage. Clothed in a garment of light, let us hasten to the holy third-day Resurrection that shines upon the world with the glory of eternal life.” When we live clothed “with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer,” we can say that we are already living in the spirit of the Resurrection.
I wish you a holy and fruitful Lenten journey that you may arrive at the Great and Holy Pascha of Christ radiant with His abundant Life dwelling in your hearts.
+ Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
Eparch of Newton