MESSAGE ON THE COMMENCEMENT OF HOLY AND GREAT LENT
Let us begin the Fast with joy. Let us give ourselves to spiritual efforts.
Let us cleanse our souls. Let us cleanse our flesh.
Let us fast from passions as we fast from foods,
taking pleasure in the good works of the Spirit
and accomplishing them in love
that we all may be made worthy to see
the passion of Christ our God
and His Holy Pascha, rejoicing with spiritual joy."
—Hymn on the 1st day of Great Lent
In the Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church, the first day of Great lent is known as “Clean Monday.” The joyous, springtime atmosphere of Clean Monday sets the tone for the Lenten spirit of repentance and self-control, as described by Jesus our Lord in the Gospel:
“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
—Matthew 6: 16-18
This spirit is also reflected in the writings of many of the saints and spiritual fathers such as these words by Saint Basil the Great:
"Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord. True fast is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood, and perjury. Privation of these is true fasting."
Some Orthodox Christians have the custom of going out to parks with their children, fly kites, and spend time outdoors in the natural beauty of God’s Creation. This custom serves to break through our routine in order to take time for the simple things of life and see the goodness and beauty in all that God does for us!
May our Lenten effort prove to be fruitful, as we strive to do our best, so that these days may truly be the “holy and saving forty days!
Fr. Nicholas Ceko