|APRIL 2011||DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE||
Prophet Isaiah was emphatic in arguing that lent and fasting are not just pious "obligatory Observances" for the people of God, but a trmendous tranforming force. (Isaiah 58). Being mortal and foible, humans need periodic renewal of body, mind and soul. And how is this posible?
The central theme of the preaching of Jesus Christ and earlier, of John the Baptist, was the call to repentance and renewal. Those were the 'signs' of the arrival and establishment of the Kingdom Of God. For us, a basic answer to the question raised above is provided by the season of lent and fasting.
Basically the Great Lenten Season has some 'external' observations and abstinances, which certianly have their 'internal' and obvious implications. We are asked to abstain from certain food items and also to completly refrain from eating and drinking for a certain time. Though these seem overt, in reality they effect a lasting influence on our thinking and spirit. It may be obseved, felt and appreciated that an element of discipline and moderation slowly creeps into the one who keeps the lent. One special feature of the great lent is the "prostrations" which are made several times. Here is a telling message that all the three elemets - body, mind and soul, do participate in this ardurous process. The body and thinking may not have much involvement in an act in which they do not participate. In Prostration, the body feels a bit of hard labour leading to tiredness, but this one is one with a difference. Here the tiredness is welcome!
And the regulation of abstinece extends to other bodily activities and 'pleasures'. Not only that: we are enjoined to control our tongue as well. The note in Isaiah specifically exhorts that lent is to accepted wholeheartedly as the time to repair and make anew. Broken relationships are to be restored; the injustice done has to be amended; the poor need to be taken care of, for the rich are partly responsible for their poverty. The entire devotion- prayer scedule of the Great Lent deals withthe issue of repentance and restoration of the proper relationship with God and neighbour. This is common to all ancient churches.
Saint Paul talks about the "fruit" of the Spirit: the last in the catalogue is e self-control.( Gal.5: 22) Fasting and repentance is the time tested means of self control!
It may be beneficial to recall that Jesus himself fasted for forty days and nights before he started his public ministry. And his disciples emulated him in this. St Gregorios of Parumala and his brother bishops assembled at Vettikkal Dayara and fasted and prayed for forty days before they set out to take charge of their assigned dioceses in the Church.
Now going back to our ropening querry. How to realize a renewal in our personal and family lives? Her we have a credible and trustworthy avenue - that of the Great Lent. The Orthodox Churches world wide take the Lenten season seriously as an opportunity for personal and community renewal and transformation.
Let us join the band of all who faithfully observe the Great Lent, and 2011 become unforgettable for us as the year of totan renewal and transformation, wherin signs and ways of sin and evil in us are totally removed from us. Jesus who observed the Lent and fasting walks ahead of us. Let us follow him faithfully!
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LIGHT OF LIFE
PUBLISHED ON FIRST DAY OF EVRY MONTH