: Great Lenten Epistle of the Primate of the Russian Church Abroad

Beloved Fathers and Brothers in the Lord!

Great Lent is approaching – a time set aside for delving into ourselves, for examining our lives, for repentance and correction. Great Lent is not only a time to refrain from certain types of food; it is a time for asceticism of the mind and senses, when we abstain from impure thoughts, separate ourselves from our habitual sins, entertainments, and harmful routines, when we fast, as St. John Chrysostom says, “with the mouth, the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.”

The Holy Hierarch John, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Wonderworker, glorified by the Russian Church Abroad in 1994, writes the following about this salvific time: “Great Lent is preparation for the future life, while in the shorter term it is preparation for the Bright Resurrection. Just as in a tall building the staircase is constructed in a way that makes it easier to ascend to the building’s heights, so are various days of the year steps for our spiritual upliftment and ascent. The days of Great Lent and Holy Pascha are just such days.”

When we ascend a high mountain, we try to shed any excess weight. As we approach the fast, let us also shed judgment and slander, hatred and discord, and all manner of excess. Let us forgive those who have offended us, remembering Christ’s commandment, that He will forgive us only when we have forgiven those who hate us. Let us limit or set aside altogether, at least for this period of time, the internet and especially social media, immersing ourselves in spiritually beneficial literature, which pacifies and illumines the soul. In order that our greeting “Rejoice!” might be pleasing to the Mother of God on the feast of the Annunciation, which this year coincides with the Sunday of the Cross2, let us shut the doors of our minds and hearts to the passions of this world, taking care to attend the divine services appointed for this grace-filled time of year. Let us increase our prayer, especially our prayer for the peace of the whole world and let us likewise increase our good works.

Lent is a joint undertaking, a united procession of the entire Church to the radiant Paschal night. Indeed, everyone tries to fast according to his ability and circumstance. Lent instills peace and goodness in our hearts and unites people. Venerable Abba Dorotheus, the great saint, ascetic writer, and founder of a monastery in Palestine, drew a circle. In the center of that circle was God, while the people were in the line of the circle. In order for them to come closer together, each person had to leave his place and move toward the center, toward God. Thus did the path to overcoming enmity and division appear to the venerable saint. Heeding his call and girding ourselves with power from on High, let us proceed toward God with the staff of prayer, that we might meet and spend Holy Pascha in newness of strength, brotherly love, and spiritual joy! Amen.

Asking your forgiveness and holy prayers, I remain with love in the Lord,

Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

[1] In connection with the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the glorification of the Holy Hierarch and Wonderworker John, we give our blessing to commemorate him at all dismissals until the day of his repose – June 19/July 2.

[2] On this day, clergy have our blessing to serve either in purple or blue vestments, but not in one and the other, and changing vestments during the services is not advised.