by + Bishop Dimtri of the South
The Great Fast (or Lent) begins with Forgiveness Vespers on Sunday evening, February 18. The purpose of Lent for Orthodox Christians, simply stated, is to recover the vision of Christ that was given to us when we first became children of God at baptism, our birth from above, of water and the Spirit. From the beginning this “spiritual recovery” has been an essential part of the life in Christ and the Lenten season for two reasons.
First, having been baptized into Christ and having put our faith in Him as the only Savior of us all, we find ourselves living in a world that has standards and goals not compatible with our calling as His disciples. We often end up living like pagans, with corresponding cares and concerns, and we consequently try to serve two masters, God and mammon.
Second, at the end of Lent is Pascha (Easter), the celebration of Christ’s resurrection and of our own death, burial and resurrection, for “we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). We “are also risen with Him” (Colossians 2:12). Baptisms, since the Church’s early days, were administered on the eve of Pascha.
Everything that we became responsible for as children of Christ’s kingdom is carefully reviewed and meditated upon during our preparation for the fast. Whatever of the prodigal son remains in our lives, because we have not given “the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard…and let them slip” (Hebrews 2:1), must be repented of. And we must repent with the confidence that on returning to our loving Father, we will be received with open arms.