Beloved in the Lord,
God, who is worshipped and glorified in Trinity, has made us worthy once again this year to arrive at this devout period, the forty days of Great and Holy Lent. Our Mother, the Church invites us to acquire contrite souls, to undertake spiritual struggles and to make our lives worthy of the Gospel of salvation, which Christ revealed to the Human Race by coming amongst us naturally as both God and Man over two thousand years ago.
Holy and Great Lent is a spiritual journey, a sacred reminder of the renewal of our Christian Faith, which is lived out by Christians within the context of the history of the Human Race. Our Church praises the examples of those people who have been helped on the way of salvation through repentance and hard spiritual struggles, and thus have experienced the mystery of salvation and returned to Our Father, God. Such people are the Publican and the Prodigal Son of the Gospel, Saint Mary of Egypt, and Saint John of the Ladder. They are our spiritual Fathers – countless brothers and sisters in the Lord whose names are written in the heavens – who in their life, and with their wisdom, fought for the holy icons and their importance for our sanctification. Our Mother Church renews our remembrance of prayer, and our faith, by which we address God daily.
It emphasizes the value of fasting as an additional sacred means for our spiritual progress, the avoidance of sin and for making us to draw near to virtue and knowledge of God. “Come, o ye peoples, and today let us accept the spiritual gift of the fast, as a God-given time of repentance“(Monday of the First Week of the Fast). A fast that is clean and acceptable to God is “abstinence from sin, turning towards God and drawing near to Him, to flee from the pits of evil” (Monday of the First Week of the Fast). Fasting is existentially linked to repentance, forgiveness, tears of the soul, labour of the body, and our loving relationship with God and our fellow human beings.
Holy and Great Lent is existentially connected with Divine Worship and glorifying God the Trinity in spirit and truth; God, who in Christ became Man, suffered and was buried and rose again from the dead to sanctify sinful man and to save him and lift him up to the heavens. This season is a season of sorrow for the sinfulness of man, but it is also a time of joy and blessing because God’s will has triumphed. Countless human souls have made their own personal sacrifice, imitating Christ literally; and, through their life, their faith and their venerable example, they have taken the Universe to heaven, and continually multiply the ranks of monastics and married people, who gather together and participate with reverence in the beauty of Paradise, that the Master, Christ, has redeemed with his Death on the Cross.
In Holy and Great Lent the symbol of the Cross is displayed for veneration and ritual observance by the Faithful. For the cross defeated sin and became the “Protector of the whole world”. “No sooner had the Tree of your Cross been set up, Christ our Lord, than the foundations of death were shaken“.
Before concluding this Encyclical Letter for the Holy and Venerable season of Holy and Great Lent I would like to wish you all, health, peace and to have reverential fear of God in our lives. That we should pray without ceasing, modestly and humbly, attend church regularly, both alone and with family, we should partake of the Holy and Immaculate Mysteries of Christ, and forgive those who have harmed us or treated us unfairly. We should convey our faith in God through our love towards our fellows, and especially the poor, the elderly, the needy, children and widows, generously offering works that are “good and profitable to all people” for the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Praying that, with repentance and confession, we travel through this Holy and Great Lent and arrive, with joy and happiness, at Great and Holy Week and the Holy Feast of Pascha, I remain with warm wishes and love and honour in the Lord.
London, Holy and Great Lent 2018
Archbishop of Thyateira
and Great Britain, Gregorios