"He who has ears to hear let him hear!" are the words that end several perikopes in the Holy Gospels. That is, our Lord is telling us: He, who understands what I am saying, let him put it into practice. Christian life is one of action: the action of prayer, the action of learning what is the will of God, and the action of fulfilling the commandments and statutes of God.
With a very few exceptions, if any, those who will be reading these comments will be Orthodox Christians. Therefore, being so, you have received many Talents, such as Holy Baptism, the Seal of the Holy Spirit, and the Body and Blood of Christ that has nourished you. Most probably you grew up in a Christian family and you might have attended Church on occasions or possibly even every week. You may pray in the silence of your room or in your heart. In your every day life and when interacting with those around you, you may have noticed that your thoughts are gradually changing through the action of your conscience. In other words, you had the choice to act for your profit or for your pleasure, but you chose to modify your action to fit the good of your neighbour first. It is at this moment that you may have remembered the commandment of the Lord to love your neighbour.
As Christians we are endowed with a commandment to love our neighbour, we know that if we do this it pleases God. "To know this" means to have received a talent from God. To act in accordance with it is to negotiate with the talent and increase its value.
By the mercy of God we have been endowed with the Talents of Faith, Hope and Love. They are "capital" for us to negotiate with or to do business with.
What are we able to do with Faith? First we have to know it. If we want to negotiate with dollars we need to know what their value is and also their worth in the area we want to deal in. Our Faith is a knowledge imparted by Jesus Christ. With it we have descriptions of the Truth in the Creed (or Symbol of Faith), the Sacraments or Mysteries, the Holy Scripture, the Cycles of the Christian Year-the feasts, the Lectionary listing of Biblical readings for each day, the writings of the Fathers and Saints, the holy relics, the holy icons, etc.
Faith requires care, attention and systematic approach. For this reason the Holy Mother Church commands us to meet in the synaxis (or coming together) every week and at least of on Sundays (as well as the great feast days). With this systematic instruction, She instructs us step by step as we become familiar with the truth and knowledge, which guide us to Eternal Life.
With the parable of the talents (i.e. Matthew 25:14-30), the Holy Mother Church calls us to avoid being wicked and slothful, like the third servant, but be like the first and second good and faithful servants. That is, we have to be diligent Christians and think ahead beyond our immediate needs.
The Sacred Lent begins on Monday, 26 February 2001, which is a period of the year dedicated by the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church for fasting. Sadly, Lent has become a nuisance for many Christians who do not understand the importance or reason for changing the quality and quantity of food during this period of fifty days. However, they eventually may hear during the Holy and Great Friday ceremonies about the suffering and death of the Lord. At that moment they may be full of sensuous emotion and sorrow. Then they might fast all day with pouring tears and, even, go to Communion on Holy and Great Saturday-without Confession. What is even sadder is that they take the Eucharist without repentance or without change in their lives. This is the way of the third servant who hid his talent in the ground.
However, the way of the diligent servant is to look at the weeks before Monday 26 February, as weeks for hard work. This is the period for self-examination and for change in our lives to conform to the teaching and commandment of Christ to love our neighbours. It is also the time to visit our spiritual father and make confession of our sins. This may seem hard to many people, but it is far easier to do than to leave this earth with a guilty conscience.
To facilitate this hard work, the Holy Church has reduced the severity of the food fasting and has even eliminated all fasting during the week starting with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. The week after, which begins with the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Church allows us to consume all foods other than the flesh of animals. Then the Church prescribes strict fasting revolving around prayer and our meditation on the passages of all the four Gospels and of all the Epistles of the Apostles, which crown all with the Sufferings of the Passion of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Fixing our attention in this way we shall move to repentance, to mortification of our heart to the world and to change our earthly carnal thoughts and feelings into spiritual ones, surrendering our will to that of the Father. Our heart will rest fully in God, who always cares for our Salvation and will give us the happiness that Christ has promised.
The Holy Church, with St. James, tells us to "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22). Lent, then, will be a time of VISION.
Protopresbyter Kyrillos Leret-Aldir,
Weston-super - Mare, Great Britain, 1st February 2001