Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The days of Lent remind us of Moses and Elijah and Jesus, all of whom spent forty days in the wilderness. Lent means spring in Latin and it is the time that we prepare ourselves and our world for the coming of light. This is a time of preparation , leading up to the grand celebration of our Lord's resurrection at Easter. Lent leads to Easter, by way of the cross. As we approach Lent, we consider the ways in which we can prepare ourselves for the surprise and joy of Easter. Lent, has traditionally been a time of examination, repentance and discipline in the Church. The Holy Church calls on us to "observe a holy Lent: by self examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; by reading and meditating on God's Holy Word." During the Great Lent we are reminded that, while fasting from food, we must fast from our passions - anger, gossip, jealousy - while intensifying our vigi lance, our prayer lives, and our ministry to others, especially the least among us. Hence, fasting as a preparation is quite the opposite of the worldly preparations that all too often focus our celebration on ourselves, rather than on our Lord. Abstaining from certain types of food is just a part of the fast, but not an end in itself. If we fast just by limiting food in-take, it is just a special diet and not a true fast. To fast is to work upon one's spiritual well-being. It is about reaching a spiritual goal, which should be a part of a wide spiritual effort. We can implement that by prayer, silence, meditation, an extra effort in being kind, charitable, merciful more virtuous person. While fasting bodily, let us also fast spiritually. The purpose of the Fast is to come to the realization of our true spiritual hunger, which is the longing for the Presence of God in our lives. God is the only entity we ever needed and he provides for the sustenance needed to sustain our spiritual and physical needs. The Fast is meant for us to be master and controller over the demands of the body and its passions, rather than the body to take control through its own impulses. Fasting is a spiritual tool to combat our own desires as well as to defeat the many temptations brought on by the evil one. "Lent can be a time for reducing some of the chronic over-stimulation which is so much a part of modem living; a time when we protect ourselves a little more from the daily bombardment of images and stimuli, the pressures which keep us trapped on the surface." The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world. Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The des perate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. We must not be led to believe that the Disciplines are only for spiritual giants and hence beyond our reach, or only for contemplatives who devote all their time to prayer and meditation. Far from it God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children. In fact, the Disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our relationships with our husband or wife, our brothers and sisters. Lent is rooted in repentance, turning one's life around, putting off the old self and putting on of the new self, which is made real by the resurrection of Jesus. Thus Lent is about conversion. Our world is hungry for genuinely changed people. Leo Tolstoy observes, "Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself." Let us be.
With prayerful regards
Rev. Fr. Ninan Philip Panackamattam
Vicar & President