‘Some of you may wonder why the Church, in the midst of the current pandemic, would add to the already existing health restrictions yet another “quarantine,” namely Great Lent.’
“Indeed, Great Lent is also a quarantine, a period that lasts forty days,” wrote Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his catechetical message at the beginning of Great Lent, drawing a parallel between the restrictions imposed by the authorities in some parts of the world in the context of the pandemic and the etymology of the word quarantine, which means forty days.
‘The Church does not aim to weaken us further with additional obligations and prohibitions. On the contrary, it calls us to give meaning to the quarantine that we are living as a result of the coronavirus, through Great Lent, as liberation from enslavement to “the things of our world.”’
The Ecumenical Patriarch noted that liberation from bondage to worldly things can be done through fasting and forgiveness.
“The first condition is fasting, not in the sense of abstaining only from specific foods, but also from those habits that keep us attached to the world.”
“Such abstinence does not comprise an expression of contempt of the world, but a necessary precondition for reorienting our relationship with the world and for experiencing the unique joy of discovering the world as the domain of Christian witness.”
“The “Lenten atmosphere” is not depressing, but joyous,” the Patriarch of Constantinople highlighted.
‘It is the “great joy” that was proclaimed as good news by the angel “to all people” at the birth of the Savior (Lk 2.10). ‘
“The second condition of the liberation promised by Great Lent is forgiveness.”
‘Oblivion of divine mercy and God’s ineffable beneficence, breach of the Lord’s commandment that we should become “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Mt 5.13-14), and a false transformation of the Christian way of life: to all of these attitudes leads a “closed spirituality” that thrives on the denial and rejection of the “other” and of the world, wipes out love, forgiveness and the acceptance of the different.’
“Yet, this barren and arrogant attitude of life is denounced emphatically by the word of the Gospel on the first three Sundays of the Triodion.”
‘The authentic spiritual life is a way of internal renewal, an exodus from ourselves, a loving movement toward our neighbor. It is not based on syndromes of purity and exclusion, but on forgiveness and discernment, doxology and thanksgiving, according to the experiential wisdom of the ascetic tradition: “It is not food, but gluttony that is evil … not speaking, but idle speech … not the world, but the passions.”’
With these thoughts, the Patriarch of Constantinople addressed the Orthodox believers who are about to enter the period of Lent.
Photography courtesy of Ecumenical Patriarchate / Nikos Papachristou
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