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Great and Holy Lent 2004


† B A R T H O L O M E W

Beloved brethren and children in the Lord,

At the beginning of Triodion a heart searching hymn is chanted, which includes the phrase: “Life-giver, open up the doors of repentance for me”. It is immediately understood that the Holy Orthodox Church has devoted a great deal of the time of the year to our repentance. Moreover, at every hour and every day she reminds us of the need to repent. She is fully aware that repentance is the starting point of spiritual life and salvation for every human being. In addition, the fact that both Saint John the Forerunner and our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, started their preaching by calling people to repentance, testifies to that.

As the meaning of the Greek word itself reveals metanoia, repentance, consists of the changing of our minds, and of our spiritual stance toward the world and God. It certainly entails the renunciation of our sins and the decision to live henceforth according to the holy commands of God. What repentance is primarily, is the renewal and change of our way of thinking, namely, of the way we evaluate the elements of the material and spiritual world. It is also a reclassification of the hierarchy of values, by which we regulate our lives, according to God’s will.

If we have been giving priority to the gathering of riches, we should hereafter strive for the beneficial utilisation of financial goods to enhance public welfare. If we have been trying to primarily satisfy our own individual needs, we should from now on attend to the needs of others, starting with the people close to us, advancing to the greater societal family, within which we live, and possibly reaching the entire humanity.

If, so far, the centre of our interest has been to attain success in this life, we should henceforth expand it beyond this life into the next one. If our studies and research have been limited and covered only the areas of human sciences and the arts, we should delve into the holy science and art of spiritual life, which has its own rules that need to be similarly studied and learned. If we have been anxious to form good relationships with the powerful people of this world, we should henceforth take great pains to form friendly relationships with the powerful figures of the spiritual world, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Theotokos and the Saints. If we have been in the habit of believing that our judgment and understanding surpass that of others’, we should from now on recognise that many times the judgment of other people is better than ours. In general, we will be able to truly repent, when we are in the position to re-evaluate our notions and re-assess our thinking in order to correct it when wrong, until we align ourselves with the positions of our Holy Church. These are positions of the Holy Gospel, which are ultimately the saving and true teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, repentance must be accompanied by the confession of our sins to a suitable Confessor and it should be done in total honesty and utter humiliation. God has bestowed His authority upon spiritual Confessors to bind and to loose sins. Repentance without the clean confession of sins to the philanthropic authority of a Confessor is inconceivable and does not exist. In the Holy Sacrament of Confession, through the Grace of the Holy Spirit, the Christian is cleansed from any impurity. The wounds caused by the passions are healed through confession, the Christian is spiritually renewed and reborn, and receives strength that empowers him to continue his good fight. Continuous repentance is necessary, as the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church teach, even for the people that are most pious, if any, because the perfection of the divine teachings, with which as human beings we are called to harmonise our minds and hearts, is infinite.

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s refrain from saying that we have no sins or that we need not to repent, for we are running the risk of assuming the blameworthy arrogance of the Pharisee. We all need to repent, since we are all in need to better learn the will of God, to love and forgive more, to have a more enlightened zeal, and a stronger interest for the spiritual life, despite the level of perfection that we have attained.

May the Holy God, through the intercessions of the Most-Holy Theotokos and of all His Saints, bless us to traverse the holy period of Lent in physical health and in soul repentance, and to approach the Holy Pascha cleansed and restored, so that we can partake in the joy of the Resurrection during this year and we can eternally hold steadfast on the manner of the resurrected eternal life. So be it.


Great and Holy Lent, 2004
Patriarch of Constantinople
fervent intercessor to God for all
Protocol No. 80

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