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Clean Monday.

The gateway to the Fast has been opened. The arena of abstinence lies here before us. Let us rouse ourselves with fiery eagerness, and so we shall receive God’s grace to quench the burning flame of our offences. "Clean Monday", refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods.

Liturgically, Clean Monday—and thus Great Lent itself—begins on the preceding (Sunday) night, at a special service called Forgiveness Vespers, which culminates with the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness, at which all present will bow down before one another and ask forgiveness. In this way, the faithful begin Great Lent with a clean conscience, with forgiveness, and with renewed Christian love. The entire first week of Great Lent is often referred to as "Clean Week," and it is customary to clean the house thoroughly (or to have it clean before the beginning of the Fast).

When travelers set out on a distant, difficult, and dangerous path, they usually review the the road ahead and the dangers and hardships that await them; and setting their sights on the main goal of their travels, protect themselves with various counsel, warnings, needed provisions, and means.

Children of the holy Church who care for your salvation! According to the voice of the holy Church, we are preparing ourselves now to enter upon the great path of the Holy Forty Days. And we need to turn our gaze to the path ahead, setting our sites on the goal with which the holy Church, our true teacher and guide to heaven, leads us into the great labor of fasting; to prepare ourselves to enter it with attention, to walk vigilantly, and complete it with saving fruits.

Great is the path ahead, both in length of time, and especially in importance of spiritual labors commanded of us by the Church.

This time is especially prescribed to us for the remembrance of our Savior’s labors: His forty days’ fast, and His saving sufferings, so that we also, as much as possible, would emulate the self-sacrifice of our divine Establisher of ascetic labors. Thus He, the Most Holy, is sinless, and He our God, Lord, and Creator, also fasted and prayed for us, hungered and thirsted, bore temptations from the devil, sorrowed, was weighed down, poured tears for us, and finally suffered, was crucified and on the cross finished His life for our sake. How could we sinners who bear condemnation in ourselves, for our own purification not grieve, be weighed down, and bridle our sinful inclinations, habits, and passions that ceaselessly dissipate the powers of our souls, weaken our physical strength, corrupt the dignity of our spirit, and imperceptibly take us further and further away from truth and goodness, from our eternal benefactor—God? If in this time especially dedicated to soul-saving labors we do not follow after our Savior on His way of the Cross, if we do not sorrow with Him, not be participants in the very work of His savings sufferings—then with what lips shall we touch His pierced side, how will we kiss His life-bearing wounds, with what feeling will we bow down before His passion, and how will we feel the joy of His light-bearing Resurrection?

The Forty Days Fast is a sacred time of spiritual labors for Christians.

And the holy Church has so accustomed us from our youth to look upon it, that often we ourselves await this time for the fulfillment of our good intentions, so that in this quiet and saving time those beset by storms might gather in the harbor, those who are sick might be healed of their wounds, and those who are lost in error might find the true way and become steadfast in it.

Therefore the holy Church, like a wise parent gradually leading us to spiritual perfection, but also knowing our inclination toward sin, especially at this time prescribes to us to fast for the purification of our bodies and bodily senses; it prescribes tender and contrite prayer for the purification of our spirit and inward senses; it prescribes silence and solitude, so that in renunciation of worldly talk we might unhindered grow nearer to God; and finally, it prescribes repentance and outward confession of sins, so that with true remorse and a pure conscience, having cast off from ourselves our numerous sins and iniquities, we might make peace with God, strive to worthily walk before Him in all good deeds, and acquire one spirit with the Lord through the acquisition of His saving sufferings and life-bearing Resurrection.

And thus, at the very entrance to the holy path, with pure heart let us prepare ourselves for the labor of fasting according to our strength, so that by self-restraint we might purify both our outward and inward senses.

And let us ask the Lord to strengthen us with His grace-filled power, so that as much as possible, He might correct and heal each of us of the sickness of soul, the infirmity of heart that most darkens our minds, corrupts our hearts, and produces disorder throughout our lives and in all our deeds. With God’s help, it is with this disposition that we should enter upon the path ahead of us! But in order to complete the saving path of abstinence and purification with fruits of grace, as children of obedience we must put aside all disagreements and inclination to contradict, all censure and arguments against our neighbor, especially all haughtiness and enmity, and in the spirit of meekness, peace, and love enter upon the labor ahead.

Spiritual activity is not like physical activity. It is done with deep solitude, with strenuous efforts, and outward peace. But with inner enmity and disharmony we can’t do anything fruitful.

Only in unity of love and peace can we truly serve the God of love and peace. Peace and harmony on the path of fasting will strengthen us in patience, bring us ease in our labors of obedience, confirm us in feelings of humility, and nourish in us the spirit of prayer. With guileless faces we shall stand before the face of the Lord, and in personal, domestic, and common prayer in church, and with the feeling of hope we will call out with boldness to the Heavenly Father:

O Heavenly Father! Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Let us embark joyfully on the path of the fast as on the path of grace-filled enlightenment of mind, purification of heart, fortification of good will, and correction of the weaknesses and obsessions that reign in us; let us embark with hope in God, with profound attention to ourselves, with good resolve of spirit for every good deed before God; let us embark with mutual peace and love. Thus completing the path of holy ascetic labor, we will be vouchsafed with the grace of Christ, with pure hearts to greet the joyful day of the Resurrection of Christ, to hear in our inner sense the sweet voice of the Risen Lord, to greet each other with the joy of Christ’s Resurrection, and in the depths of our spirit to feel the beginnings of the blessed joy of our own future resurrection.

Guide us, O Lord, on Thy path, and let us go forth in Thy truth. Amen.

Glory to Thee Our God.

+ Glory to Thee for All Things! +

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1 Comment

Feb 28, 2023

Glory forever!

May God grant us all a blessed Holy Great Lenten journey!