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The Great Lent: The Journey to the Bosom of the Father

The Church has a strong program during this fast put by the ‎Fathers through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which became to ‎the soul a source of survival and spiritual filling, and to the Church ‎a source of communal repentance and deep fellowship with the ‎Lord Jesus Christ in His fast…For Christ fasted for us and with us-‎and certainly He is a partner with each fasting soul.‎

The monks used to take this opportunity of the holy fast to ‎leave their monasteries to the wilderness in solitude and in the ‎fullness of the company of the Lord Jesus and the fellowship of ‎His Holy Spirit. At the end of Lent they returned to their ‎monasteries (as was recorded for us in the story of St. Mary the ‎Egyptian and her meeting with St. Zosima the priest).‎

In addition, the Church considered the Great Lent a ‎dedication program for the teaching of catechumens who were ‎admitted to the faith, and who at Easter were baptized in the name ‎of the Holy Trinity-that is they were buried and resurrected with ‎Christ. The procession which the Church conducts, these days for ‎the newly baptized baby was in the past the procession of ‎Resurrection which the catechumens experienced at their baptism ‎and resurrection in the Lord at Easter.‎

These days the Church as a body practices absolute ‎abstention, daily liturgies, the life of repentance and contrition ‎before God. We can find through meditation on the Sunday ‎readings a strong spiritual program for every soul, which may be ‎titled, “The Journey to the Bosom of the Father.” ‎
The journey starts in a frank and clear invitation in the gospel ‎of the preparation Sunday for the entry into the closet for a ‎dialogue with the Father.‎

‎1. Preparation Sunday (Matt. 6:1-8)‎

‎“When you pray enter into your closet,…shut your door, ‎pray to your Father which is in secret….” Also if you give alms or ‎fast that also should be to the Father in secret….‎

The Point of Departure of the Journey

The Church declares to us that the closet is the point of ‎departure of the journey of Lent. If it does not start at the closet ‎then the journey of our fast has deviated from its true course. The ‎fact that the Church starts the fast by directing us to the closet ‎means that the fast is not only related to the flesh but it is related ‎more to the spirit and to Kingdom of God.‎ ‎ The week of ‎preparation is the week of the closet.‎

Close Your Door

The journey starts after closing the door-the door that looks ‎at the world. Then there opens before us another door that faces ‎heaven, “Our father who art in heaven”, “I looked, and, behold a ‎door was opened in heaven.” (Rev 4:1) “Fasting is not a fetter or a ‎prison to the senses but a soaring without hindrance towards ‎contemplation of God.”‎ ‎ ‎

Pray to your Father

The Church has set a standard to the level of faith of the ‎catechumens before they are allowed to receive the Sacrament of ‎Baptism. The standard is the church continues teaching the ‎catechumens about the Lord’s prayer, starts with “Our Father….”, ‎and at the moment they perceive and comprehend the paternity of ‎God to them, they are entitled to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.‎

Your Father Who Sees in Secret

This is the secret of the prayer of the closet which the Church ‎perceived so allotted to it the deepest of prayers like the prayer of ‎the five wise virgins awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom, and ‎the prayer of the fallen won feet of the Lord Jesus (Prayer of the ‎closet of “Matins”). Where in the closet we discover our sins…and ‎we hold the feet of the Lord to free our feet the prodigal road, and ‎we taste the love of God, and learn contrition, and thus the goal of ‎the journey of our fast becomes the withdrawal of the soul into ‎itself (in secret) where the Lord purifies it with His blood and ‎dedicates her a temple for Him and adorns her with His talents so ‎that she may participate with the wise virgins in the meeting of the ‎Bridegroom.‎
Since the journey is with the soul, it should be done in secret. ‎The relationship between the human soul and Christ, is an invisible ‎relationship that begins in the chamber. So fasting is accompanied ‎by a reduction in talking and visits and by concentrating on ‎spiritual readings and attending the Divine Liturgy.‎
Brother, our Heavenly Father is calling you to a holy ‎participation with Him in secret, through which you may start your ‎fast, your prayers, and your almsgivings. So beware of negligence.‎
Practice: The practice in the week of preparation is the ‎prayer of the chamber and the worship in secret which will ‎continue with us all through after the period of fasting.‎

‎2. Surrender of Life to the Heavenly Father: (Matt. 6:24-34)‎

The gospel of the first Sunday of Lent calls for the surrender ‎of life to the Father. “Take no thought for your life, what you shall ‎eat…nor yet for the body, what you shall wear….do not worry ‎about tomorrow.” The reason for not worrying is that “your ‎heavenly Father knows that you have of all these things.” (Matt. ‎‎6:32).‎

The practice of this week is a call to a secure life in the care ‎of the Father and the carrying out of what comes in the verse, “Do ‎not worry about tomorrow,” physically, mentally and spiritually.‎

The Christian commandment is full of risks but its assurance ‎is the care of the Father. The woman who gave the two mites was ‎risking her meal. During the fast, Satan wages his war by ‎convincing us that we are risking the necessities of the body and ‎causes us to worry about our health. Likewise, in charity, there is a ‎risk of wealth.‎

In this week, we experience the complete surrender to the ‎care of the Father and to His commandment.‎

‎3. Why does God forget us if He is our Father? (Matt. 4: 1-10)‎

The gospel of the Second Sunday deals with the temptation ‎of doubting God’s paternity to us, “If you are the son of God-why ‎does He leave you hungry? Why does God allow the presence of ‎disease, failure and the death of our beloved?”‎

Practice: It is our duty this week to examine our faith in the ‎love of the Father who gave His Son for us. Our faith should ‎surpass all temptations and emotions. Faith in the Father should be ‎a faith that fortifies us against the temptation of the Adversary, the ‎hardships of this world and the sufferings and desires of the body.‎

‎4. Repentance in the Father’s bosom (Luke 15:11-32)‎

Repentance in Christianity is different from any other ‎repentance; it is the return of the son to his Father and the Father ‎falling on the neck of His son to embrace him and kiss him (Luke ‎‎15:20). This is the gospel of the third Sunday.‎
The Father’s paternity to us is not because of our ‎righteousness, but because of His paternity to his children, ‎especially the sinners.‎
The Father’s paternity for us challenges all our sins, our ‎failures, our betrayal of His love and our mistreatment of His ‎name.‎
Practice: Brother, do not permit this week to go by without a ‎true repentance and resorting to the Father’s embrace….Examine ‎this in your chamber and taste the Father’s embrace and His kisses ‎which are reserved only for those who repent. This is the week of ‎repentance in the Father’s bosom, the repentance of the whole ‎Church…the communal repentance.‎

‎5. Worship of the Father in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:1-42) ‎

The next step after repentance is worship of the Father Who ‎accepted and loved me and cleansed me from my sins and put me ‎in His bosom. Contrition of the spirit and submission to the Father ‎and the love of frequent prostrations in worship are the expressions ‎of our love for Him who opened His arms for us sinners and kissed ‎us. This is the end of the road of repentance in the Father’s bosom, ‎and this is the sweetest fruit of the chamber and which the Father ‎gives us in secret.‎

The Church, inspired by the Spirit, stresses in the period of ‎Lent the use of prostrations during private prayers and in the ‎Divine Liturgy (At the Offering of Incense after the readings of the ‎prophets).‎
The practice of this week is to worship the Father in spirit and ‎truth “for such the Father seeks to worship Him.” (John 4:23)‎

‎6. Bethesda and Baptism (John 5:1-18)‎

The Gospel of the fifth Sunday talks about Bethesda which ‎symbolizes Baptism. We, the crowds of Christians, were beside it ‎sick, lame, blind and paralyzed; suffering every spiritual sickness. ‎The Angel that moves the water symbolizes the Holy Spirit which ‎comes down on the water of Baptism.‎
This is our share in Christ: those who are baptized have ever ‎in the Father even if they have been sick for 38 years.‎
The practice of this week is to hope and never to despair—‎Baptism has given us the grace of sonship and children are never ‎disappointed in their hopes in the love of the Father.‎

‎7. Sonship is a Spiritual Enlightenment (John 9:1-41)‎

The last Sunday in Lent is the Sunday of Baptism, during ‎which we read the gospel of the man born blind.‎

a. “I was blind and now I see.” This is our everlasting ‎experience as children of the Heavenly Father. We were blind and ‎He opened our sight so we beheld miracles of His laws and we saw ‎what the prophets longed to see, and He gave us understanding of ‎the Scriptures.‎

b. Baptism means washing (in the pool of Siloam), so we ‎become pure. Repentance is a continuous washing, so we may see ‎clearly. Repentance is a continuation of Baptism and it is the ‎means through which we can see Christ clearly all our life. Lasting ‎repentance cleans our heart, renews the intellect, protects the ‎contrite soul in the obedience of the Father, and through ‎repentance, we can discover all the graces and secrets of the ‎Heavenly Father.‎

‎8. The Kingdom of the Beloved Son (Mt. 21:1-17; Mk. 11:1-11; ‎Lk. 19:29-48; Jn. 12:12-19)‎

This week begins with the entrance of Christ to rule ‎Jerusalem, riding on a donkey and ends by Him ruling from the ‎Cross on Calvary where He draws all to Him—all the children to ‎rule with Him in the Kingdom of His Father.‎


Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

April 9, 2009