Sunday, March 2, 2014

Met. Ephrem's Message for Lent

Arabic original here. If any reader would be kind enough to correct my translation of the hymnological terms in the first paragraph, I would much appreciate it.

Cheesefare Sunday is followed by the start of the blessed forty-day fast, when we grasp divine words through readings, chants and hymns. I would like to draw your attention to the passages known as the penitential hymns (الخخشوعيات)--the idiomela of the apostichon and the sitchera of the tones-- found in the great book of the fast, the Triodion. We hope that  every committed believer has access to this book, which is available in all church bookstores.

The fast is not limited to refraining from certain foods, despite the importance of controlling the desire of the belly. It goes further than that, to what is known as the process of repentance-- that is, the return to God even as we stumble through this corrupt world.

Today's Gospel reading (Matthew 6:14-21) calls us first to ask forgiveness from all those we have saddened, since the fast is the fast of the community. It is the return to God and the return to our neighbor in purity and love.

Today's Gospel passage is taken from Christ's Sermon on the Mount. He calls us with all the Beatitudes to enjoy the joy of the Lord. The fast is a path to true joy: " Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! ... The Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:4-5).

Today's Gospel reminds us that fasting is tied to communion with others. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth." Give of what you possess to the needy. It is an opportunity for the needy to share in our bread and our wealth with us, so that we may have treasures as deposits for salvation, in heaven. Share your possessions with others-- this is the practical dimension of the struggle of the fast, which reminds us of the Lord's words: "Break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor" (Daniel 4:24).

The Christian's primary need, especially in these difficult and wicked days, is to return to Jesus. We are in a state of spiritual war more intense and more important than the World War. Let us first of all break our passions with the weapon of the fast and the power of the prayers of the Church, so that we may enter into longing for God and subdue longing for this world. The fast places us in a struggle between the Lord and His enemy, the Devil. Let us ally with the Lord through our struggle of fasting, so that we may enjoy the joy of the resurrection at the longed-for time of Pascha.

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