God bless you all.
I wanted to express some thoughts before Great Lent begins.
I oftentimes feel very sad for our clergy when they miss services. I’m not talking about Saturday night and Sunday services, I’m talking about the daily services! There is so much wealth in the services. I have the blessing of living at a monastery where I can hear these services. During the services of this week, the Church especially helps us to prepare for Great Lent. There is so much written there which brings us to the point of zealously anticipating the struggle of Great Lent. This is done by the Grace of God.
Essentially, the services are telling us that this is the time for repentance. It’s the time to change and lift our minds towards things above, and by these means of receiving cleansing. This also is done by the Grace of God.
In many Orthodox countries, many priests would have daily services at their parishes, even if they didn’t have daily liturgies. It is common to have a full cycle of services at the Cathedrals. But there is another important point: one needs to pay attention so as to gather the nectar which produces the sweet results of attentiveness in prayer.
Our clergy must carry spiritual gifts to pass them on to others. Our clergy need to know who they are and what gifts have been given to them through Apostolic Succession. Saint Symeon the New Theologian tells us: “What a terrible misfortune that we who have been born of God and become immortal and partakers of a heavenly calling, who are 'heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ' and have become citizens of heaven, have not yet come to the realization of so great blessings”!
But now is the time to redeem ourselves. Let us specifically work on repentance, spiritual watchfulness, and attentiveness. And when we apply these to the services of the Church, the results are great.
The clergy should have as many services throughout the week as possible. Some clergy do not even know how to serve some of these services. If anyone is in doubt, please ask to learn. The clergy should try their hardest to have as many Pre-sanctified Liturgies as possible, (as well as Great Compline). If you can add another Divine Liturgy on Saturday, by all means, do so! On Sunday we celebrate the Liturgy of St Basil, and on Saturday, we celebrate the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. Sections of the Akathist to the Mother of God are read on Friday evenings.
These extra services will bring God’s blessings to the parishes and to our entire Metropolis. It will give us the extra weapons necessary to fight the demons who are especially malicious towards those who serve God.
We should not underestimate the great gift God has given us by serving Him. No one is worthy of it. Therefore we must repent. It’s not right for our clergy to fall into the danger of indifference about their high calling and do the bare minimum. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that, “I am not like other men”. That is not the way to deal with the great gift of the priesthood. Indeed “what shall we render unto the Lord for all that He hath rendered unto us”?
And that is why this period is so special. When we repent, we come closer to God because repentance helps us humble ourselves- and “God gives grace to the humble.”
Please pray for me also, the least of you all, that I myself may practice what I preach!
Forgive me a sinner and may we all have a spiritually profitable Great Lent!
+M Demetrius of America