Great Lent Epistle in the year of our Lord 2017
PERMANENT CONFERENCE OF UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX BISHOPS BEYOND THE BORDERS OF UKRAINE
Beloved in the Lord, Reverend Clergy! Dear Brothers and Sisters! By the Grace of God, very recently we joyfully celebrated the Great Feast of the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who “ for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.” (The Nicene Creed).
In these days, Great Lent is already beginning and our Holy Church is preparing us for the events, the culmination of the history of humanity, in the relationship between the Creator and His creation. For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son to die for us in order to grant us eternal life, (John 3:16). For our sake and for our salvation, the Son of God willingly suffers and endures crucifixion and death. During this Holy 40 day period, as we approach the most important event for us all, the Holy Church calls us to adequately prepare ourselves to come near, to feel the incomprehensible love of God for us sinners, and to understand the price that was paid so that we may receive salvation and eternal life.
The Lord says “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). The days of Great Lent are the days when, with God’s help, we should make the maximum effort, weak and sinful as we are, to carry our cross. We should try to repent more deeply, to cleanse our body and soul from sin more, to forgive others more, to pray more, to fast more, to engage in constant spiritual warfare and thus lay a good foundation for our spiritual cleansing and spiritual development so that we are adequately prepared for Passion Week and the Holy Resurrection.
As the Holy Orthodox Church teaches, the path to God is the way of carrying our cross; it is a narrow and thorny path; it is the path of continuous falls under the cross and of continuous rises again. This is the way, after our personal Golgotha, wherein the light of Christ’s Resurrection will shines on us. We must never forget the words of our Lord: “Where I am, there my servant will be also” (John 12:26).
In our days, people who truly seek God do not seek a religious corporation that is financially rich or gives easy answers to concerns about God or gathers thousands of people in stadiums who want to listen to easy messages that are pleasant to their ears about themselves and about God. They are told that God is their friend, that He loves them, that He forgives them and they don’t need to do anything serious and sacrificial in their life to be “saved”. They are told to take the wide gate and the broad way to God, rather than the narrow gate and difficult way as is said in the Holy Gospel (Matthew 7:13-14). But our Orthodox Church is not spiritual fast food, and the true way to God is the way of Golgotha, the way of sacrifice, the way of limitation in life. This is the way of the cross which leads through Golgotha to Resurrection. As His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said: “The Orthodox Church is distinguished from other Christian churches in that she has preserved unadulterated the first and most ancient ecclesiastical tradition and teaching, has avoided innovation and personal interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and dogmas of faith” (Encountering the Mystery by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew). As we say in the Sunday of Orthodoxy: “this is the Apostolic faith, this is the faith of our Fathers, this is the Orthodox faith, this faith has established the universe”.
Orthodoxy is not a philosophy, not a theory, not an ideology, but a way of life that should be lived, that should be experienced, as the psalmist David says: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”(Psalm 33)
The Holy Orthodox Church has one goal: with God’s mercy and blessing, and through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, love for each other, through the Holy Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, that we achieve salvation. The Lord says: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Let us beseech the Lord not to leave us without His great mercy and bounty and that He strengthen us spiritually and physically, especially in these days of Great Lent, so that we can adequately meet His Holy Resurrection.
We sincerely greet the pious Ukrainian nation in Ukraine and beyond the borders of Ukraine with the beginning of Great Lent and we call God’s blessings upon all of you.
Your servants in our Lord Jesus Christ,
✠ YURIJ, Metropolitan Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
✠ ANTONY, Metropolitan Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora
✠ JEREMIAH, Archbishop Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of Brazil and South America
✠ DANIEL, Archbishop-elect Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
✠ ILARION, Bishop Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
✠ ANDRIY, Bishop Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada