March 2016 Message From Fr. Peter
Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. 4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness.You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high. 5 Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord?
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:3-8
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Glory To Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!
By the Grace of God the beautiful and holy season of Great Lent will soon be upon us! It will give us the opportunity to examine our lives and honestly reflect on where we are in our relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We will have the opportunity to recalibrate our lives and get back on track spiritually, so that, once again, we are journeying in the direction of the Heavenly Kingdom.
When we fast, we lighten our bodies, so that we can pray more attentively. When we participate in the “bright sadness” of the Lenten services and sing the beautiful Lenten melodies and hymns, our hearts are softened and we experience the peace of God which passes all understanding. When we secretly perform acts of charity and love to “the least of the brethren...” expecting nothing in return, we receive back in greater measure, the rich blessings of God.
So you see, this season is designed to help restore our spiritual balance, and improve our spiritual insight. By slowing down and embracing the change in our lifestyle we once again discover the “things most needful” in life, that happiness is not found in the endless pursuit of worldly possessions, fame and fortune, but in our ability to love others and to experience the love of God.
Make no mistake, when we with Our Lord’s help increase our efforts to grow spiritually, Satan, is not amused and steps up his efforts to lead us into temptation and sin. He will try to trip us up and turn our fasting into something it was not intended to be. I have included a short excerpt from the Prophecy of Isaiah where our Lord warns us not to let Great Lent be merely external - that we follow the Church’s fasting regulations to the letter but our attitude and hearts are not right. We fast and deprive ourselves so that we can give to others who are in need of help, and show them the love of Christ. I ask that you read this short passage, slowly and carefully, and take to heart the message.
May we all take full advantage of this Holy Season, with all of its beautiful services, and the opportunities for frequent confession and Holy Communion, so that we may be fully alive in Christ, and be witnesses of His love in this broken world.
Assuring you of my prayers and support during this holy season of preparation for the Feast of Feasts, Holy Pascha,
With Love in Christ and Prayers,
Dear Parishioners and Friends,
Glory To Jesus Christ! Glory Forever
Having just completed a more than five hundred 500 mile journey around the parish blessing homes this past weekend, I was amazed to discover that for the first time in 21 years as a priest, that I forgot last Sunday was the unofficial start of the Pre-Lenten Season.
Concentrating as I was on extending the blessing of the Jordan to your homes and spreading the joy of the Theophany Feast, Last Sunday I neglected to read the Gospel Reading of Zacchaeus, in addition to the appointed readings for the Sunday after Theophany.
Quite literally, it has only been a little more than two weeks since we celebrated Christmas, and only a little more than a week since we celebrated Theophany and now Lent is less than a month away!
But when I think about it, this is what life is all about, ebbs and flows, changing seasons, and constant movement forward. It is exactly what God had in mind when he created the world by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit.
When I reflect upon the Gospel account of Zacchaeus, I am struck by his eagerness to meet the Lord and to change his ways. To overcome his physical limitations, his shortness of stature, he climbed a sycamore tree to get a clearer view of Christ and not miss Him as he passed by. To those around him, he looked ridiculous, but he did not care. And in the end, we know that our Lord noticed Zacchaeus and offered him a precious gift, Salvation. Of all the thousands of people in the crowd, the Lord chose to come to Zacchaeus’ home, an action that puzzled so many others. The Son of God, the Messiah, choose to associate and break bread with a sinful man!
Each time I hear this beautiful and hope-filled Gospel reading, I am reminded of what the purpose of the upcoming Lenten Season is. This season is given to us to be our Sycamore Tree that will lift us up from a state of spiritual inadequacy, and bring us to the heights of heaven, if only we are willing to climb it: If only we are willing to recognize the need and muster up the desire and enthusiasm and a positive “can do” attitude. If we see the upcoming Season of Lent as something positive, as life-giving, then the sky is the limit to the growth and positive change and healing that can come to us. If we chose instead to look with dread upon the upcoming season, focusing instead on the unpleasantness of fasting or the greater demands of the Church on our time by attending more and longer services, we will remain in our state of spiritual brokenness and will be unable to see the Lord and receive the healing we need.
Let us prepare then, as we will sing at Forgiveness Vespers, “...to begin the Fast with joy and prepare ourselves for spiritual effort….so that we may behold the Pascha of the Lord.”
Wishing all of us the courage and zeal of Zaccheus to face our shortcomings and climb the Lenten Sycamore Tree which will lift us up to a clear vision of and deeper communion with our Lord and Saviour, I remain,
With Love in Christ and Prayers,