Strumica Diocese: News

Vespers on Forgiveness Sunday ( 01.03.2009 )

On Forgiveness (Cheesefare) Sunday, in the cathedral of Saints Methodius and Cyril in Strumica, Vespers was celebrated. Metropolitan Naum of Strumica preached a sermon and asked forgiveness from each of the present faithful, who also asked forgiveness from him. The faithful also asked for each other’s forgiveness.










The first three days of the Great Lent


My children, we are entering the period of the Great Lent. We are starting with “Clean Week”. This is not only a period with a special order and rules in the Church of God, but first of all, it is a period of special grace. We all know that this period of joy is a gift from God, in which we experience our ascesis easier. We fast easier, we pray easier, we forgive easier, we live the mystery of complete repentance easier. If someone would ask me to describe this period in one word, particularly the first three days, I would use the word “freedom” to that aim. This is the feeling that overtakes me and which I experience every time at the beginning of the Great Lent. There is no personality without freedom, nor are there personal relationships. Without freedom, there is no love.   

First of all, we must liberate ourselves from the bondage to our passions, i.e. we must liberate ourselves from the bondage to the sin, the death and the devil. We all know this. But, look at the foretaste of freedom that God gives us in the first three days. Look at this joy. Most of us do not eat nor drink anything at all. When the world hears this, it simply cannot believe that such a thing is possible. However, is everything in the abstinence of food or drink? Certainly, it is not. The fast is, first of all, in humility – how to transform our proud, distracted and darkened mind into humble, collected in prayer and illumined. All of us, who have experience of these first three days of the Great Lent, know that as more time we spend in fulfilling the obedience given by our spiritual father, and as more time we spend praying and reading the Holy Fathers, the more easily and more joyfully we endure the hunger and the thirst. And the opposite, as much as we are distracted and occupied with the obligations of this world, the physical fast becomes more difficult for us.

Those who returned to the home of their Heavenly Father, i.e. those who prayerfully entered in their hearts, they can witness that neither hunger nor thirst they feel, not just in the first three days but even much longer. The Godman Christ says: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Mathew 4, 4). That means that the real man’s life comes from the grace of God. The God’s grace was main food and drink and cloth to the Fathers from the desert, on whose incredible struggles we admire. We have the examples in the lives of the Holy Fathers. In our times, we have the example of the Venerable Father Gabriel, Bishop of Velika. But firstly, we do have the example of our Lord Godman Jesus Christ, Who stayed without any food for forty days in the desert (see Luke 4, 2; Mathew 4, 2).  

Thus, my children, the obedience and prayer, particularly for us monastics, are the only base on which our ascesis of fasting inclines, as a total release from passions (from vainglory and avarice), not only as a release from the bodily passions (from pleasure-indulgence). This is the main characteristic of the real fast. Everything other smells of vanity and demonic pride. Therefore, as His disciples were begging Him to take some food, Christ answered to them: “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” And when they spoke among themselves: ”Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” Jesus disclosed them the secret: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4, 32-34). That is Christ’s and our real food. And God’s, i.e. Christ’s deed is salvation of man and world, which He does and which He did through His Body – the Church, through us – the Christians. Thus, the biggest expression of synergy (collaboration) with God, as well as the creativity of each Christian, consists of more perfect fulfilling of the will of God and of more perfect prayer for all people. This constitutes the catholic dimension of the Christian life, and especially the ascesis of fasting.  

So you can see, my children, from all said above, how the ascesis in “the first three days of the Great Lent”, resembles and responds to the moments before the Holy Baptism, when we deny the devil and all his thoughts, words and deeds, all his pride and all his dark forces. Do you see how the ascesis in “the first three days of the Great Lent” explains the monastic denial of the world as death for this world, till the gift of the mind-and-heart prayer. Do you see how the period of “the first three days of the Great Lent” is also an icon of the Heavenly Kingdom, where our Godman Christ is everything to everyone, even real food and drink. Therefore, my children, the ascesis in “the first three days of the Great Lent” means a renewal of the vows which we gave to God on our Holy Baptism, it means renewal of the monastic vows and struggle and it means renewal of the hope in the Heavenly Kingdom inside each of us. The same applies for the period from Great Thursday till the end of Great Saturday. Christ is Risen!