My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ADAM'S EXPULSION FROM PARADISE
"...therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of pleasure to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He cast out Adam, and made him dwell opposite the garden of pleasure. He then stationed the cherubim and the fiery sword which turns every way to guard the way to the tree of life" (Genesis 3:23-24).
The quickly flowing river of times rushes on to eternity. Only the Holy Church and God's feasts stop this motion momentarily, as if counting the time. And our entire life, from our birth to departure from it, is reflected in this yearly cycle; it reminds us and calls to us, "know yourself, look inside yourself, O man. Who are you? How do you live, and what awaits you ahead? You are rushing headlong with this flow of time to timelessness, to eternity." So it is every day, every year.
Was it so long ago that the city of the human heart, languishing in sins, rang out in the Church, "Open unto me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life?" Our hearts trembled--the fast was already in the air. But now, the weeks of preparation for our field of repentance in Great Lent have passed, when:
--we Pharisee and the publican were the mirrors of our souls;
--we called out to the Heavenly Father with the voice of the Prodigal son, recognizing also our distance from the Truth, our departure to a faraway land: "O God, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee; make me one of Thy hired servants.
--a reminder of the terrible and glorious Last Judgment of the Lord, when the books shall be opened and all secrets revealed. Not yet frightening us, it calls us to knowledge of ourselves, to repentance.
"Then I saw a great white throne and Him Who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works; by the things which were written in the books…and anyone not found written in the book of life was cat into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:11-15). [my addition]
On Cheese-fare Sunday, the Church remembers the terrible tragedy that happened to mankind at the dawn of its history--its expulsion in the person of our forefather Adam from the face of God; the expulsion of Adam from paradise.
The value of tears and sadness--the earth--received the outcast, so that at God's Commandment the transgressor would reap thorns and thistles, so that he would eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, so that in pain, tears, and sadness he would give birth to his children and feed them, so that he would reap all the bitter fruits of his disobedience to the Heavenly Father.
Adam wept in his exile, "outside of paradise"; he wept, remembering what he was, what he possessed, and Who he lost. To this day, all mankind weeps and sighs over the first Adam, over the now elusive phantom of happiness. The whole world, harassed and weary, weeps because of its waywardness, because of its naked soul; because life is aimless and joyless. Nothing can fill our life so that we might unconditionally feel the fullness of true--not phantom--happiness; for this fullness is only in God.
But we are exiles. Paradise is far away, and the farther mankind lives from the time of this fall, the more shadowy that beautiful image of paradise becomes in him, the deeper is mankind's pain and suffering, and the more the image and likeness of God is erased from his soul. The world would have perished long ago, had not the Second Adam, Christ, reopened locked paradise and given man the opportunity to return to it.
We now bear the weight and sorrow of the life of an exile. Even we, who live the life of the Church, know also the paradisal joy of the open Royal doors, and the life-creating, jubilant words, "Christ is Risen!" in them is the original nearness to Divine love for man. But preceding this paradisal joy on earth is Great Lent, and the Church continually teaches that what we have lost through sin, we can find and regain only through repentance, and ascetic labors of great temperance.
Just a few hours will pass, and we will all notice with amazement that something will change around us and within us; something will happen that will place a seal of particular concentration and attention upon everything. And along with the Church, we must pass from the call to repentance to the very labors of repentance, to the work of repentance.
Our Mother Church received the Lord's Commandment of the healing fast, which could be heard in Old Testament times for the people of God through the Prophet Joel: "Now therefore, saith the Lord your God, turn to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with lamentation...sanctify a fast, proclaim a solemn service...assemble the elders...and all the inhabitants of the Lord's house, Let the priests that minister to the Lord weep, and say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach..." (Joel 2:12, 15, 16, 17).
The Second Adam, Jesus Christ, began the path of His labors with great forty days fast, so that by His Divine Love for fallen man He might open again locked paradise and show the way by which man may return to it.
The Holy Gospels testify that, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness...And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward on hungered" (St. Matthew4:1-2). And the devil came to Him and tempted Him. Great is the audacity and blindness of the dark power. Having made progress in tempting man in paradise, it began to war against God unto blindness, not recognizing in Christ the Savior and Son of God; it approached His meekness, humility, patience, purity, and Holiness with the darkness of temptations woven from pride, betrayal, conceit, and lies. But sinless Christ, Who needed no purification, opposed the tempter with fasting and prayer, showing all of us who follow Him the path of struggle with sin. And the Lord confirmed by word and deed that "this kind goeth out but by prayer and fasting" (St. Matthew 17:21).
By prayer and fasting, the Christian receives the strength of the Spirit from the Lord for his struggle with the enemy; through fasting and prayer he receives the gift of discernment and the mind of Christ; prayer and fasting lights the light, which disperses the darkness of sinful life, for, "The Light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (St. John 1:5).
But by his will, man chooses between a path of corruption and incorruption, good and evil. If woe, suffering, and death entered life through the sin of disobedience to God, then only through obedience, prayer, and fasting--our living sacrifice of love for God--can the light of supreme righteousness, peace and joy return. And this, my dear ones, is paradise on earth..." (Source: Archimandrite John Krestiankin).
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
MAY WE ALL HAVE A FRUITFUL LENTEN SEASON. ΚΑΛΗ ΚΑΙ ΕΥΛΟΓΗΜΕΝΗ ΤΕΣΣΑΡΑΚΟΣΤΗ!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God