(EP) - By the Mercy of God Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church
Grace and Peace be with you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
together with our Prayer, Blessing and Forgiveness
Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,
The holy fathers, who arranged everything in an orderly manner, instituted a period of ascetic discipline and spiritual purification for forty days prior to the great feast of the Lord’s resurrection. This ascetic rule assumes the form of a limitation on foods through fasting, but especially an abstinence from evil. The saintly hymnographer characteristically emphasizes that a genuine and favorable form of fasting for God is the estrangement from wrongdoing, control of the tongue, alienation from anger, separation from evil desires, including gossip, deceit and swearing, restoration of justice, disengagement from passionate thoughts, fervent confession, cleansing of the conscience, “which there can be nothing more difficult,” refraining from “harmful passions, from envy and hatred, indeed from every wickedness,” shunning of “the mind’s perversion,” admission of transgressions. For “the Judge is close, at the door,” and he tries hearts and minds, since “He is everywhere present and fills all things.” (Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete)
The aim of bodily ascesis is the purification of the mind and its concentration on the love of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, as well as on the love of our fellow human beings, which constitutes the evidence that we are disciples of the One who loves them. This love must be tangible, resulting in some sacrifice for them on our part. For love without offering the necessary material and spiritual goods to those whom we love is but an empty word. This is particularly true in our age of great moral and financial crisis, when those of us who can are obliged to offer assistance to our fellow human beings with gladness, love and respect. Only then will our joy in the Lord’s resurrection be complete, when our support for the least of His brothers, our own brothers and sisters, is complete. According to the honorable words of St. Basil the Great, “the man who loves his neighbor as himself possesses no more than his neighbor…thus, as much as your wealth increases, so much does your love decrease” (Homily to the Rich, PG 31.281B)...
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