The time of Great Lent is becoming shorter for Christians day by day. Day follows day, bringing us ever closer to the festive weeks of Christ’s Resurrection. The joy of anticipation kindles our feelings, while at the same time, sadness engulfs our soul as the conscience informs the heart that we have not spent the time of the fast as befits a true Christian.
Nevertheless, the time has not yet emptied into eternity. The Gospels and the Church never silence their preaching of repentance, and they call us to it. Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt. 4:17). With these words, Jesus Christ began to preach. It would follow that salvation of the soul and repentance are two truths that are unthinkable one without the other. Without repentance there is no salvation.
Our Holy Father, St. Gregory Palamas
Commemorated November 14/27, and on the Second Sunday of Great Lent
St. Gregory Palamas, one of the pillars of Orthodoxy, was born in 1296, probably to a noble Anatolian family in Constantinople. He and his brother went to Mount Athos in around 1318, and lived in Vatopedi and Esphigmenou Monasteries. Gregory also successfully persuaded his widowed mother, brothers and sisters to become take up the monastic life. With the encroachment of the Turks, he was forced to flee to Thessalonica, being ordained a priest there in 1326. Afterward, he took up the eremetic life at a mountain near Beroea, and eventually returned to Athos in 1331.
St. Gregory lived in very difficult times, for many heresies were creeping into the Church, and the Ottoman Empire was ever expanding, taking over Byzantine lands. In the early 1300’s he wrote on the nature of the Holy Spirit, showing the errors of the Latin view while living at the hermitage of Saint Savvas on Mount Athos. He became known as a preeminent theologian early in life, due to his many writings and for his beliefs on hesychasm.
Take possession of your stomach, before it takes possession of you. —St. John Climacus
How early should children begin fasting? According to the teaching of the ancient fathers, a healthy child begins to fast once it no longer takes its mother’s milk, that is, at around age three. (In ancient times, Jewish women breastfed their infants until they reached three years of age).
Along with the need to observe whatever degree of fasting, parents must also take care to prevent their children from forming a habit of overeating, or eating too often, outside of the times established for taking food—eating between meals. St. Theophan the Recluse gives parents advice in this regard: “A child should eat in such a way that while developing and fortifying the body and giving it health, he does not foment flesh-pleasing in the soul. Regardless of how young your child is, he must begin from the earliest years to stabilize the flesh, which leans toward coarse matter, and accustom it to self control, so that in both the childhood and teenage years and beyond, he can easily and freely control this need.”
What Should Be in Every Communicant of the Holy Mysteries Who Received the Lord in Them; and Who Does Not Have the Lord Within5. March 2012 - 10:08
Homily on the first week of Great Lent
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (Jn. 6:56). Rejoice, O reverent communicants! True are the Lord’s words, and so undoubtedly is the Lord within you after you receive His Holy, Pure, and Life-Creating Mysteries. But brothers, the Lord who came to dwell in us cannot remain without witness in this inward activity, just as He cannot remain without witness in His outward Providence—He … gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). He Himself said, If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20). So—do you meet with the Lord, and the Lord with you? I pose this question to you because there is perhaps no one here among you who has not already taken Communion of Christ’s Mysteries. Well then, has what should be the obvious fruit of this most glorious Mystery begun in you?
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites.
Beloved brethren! Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who commanded us to forgive our neighbors all their sins before we enter the podvig of fasting, also asked us to vigilantly preserve the fast itself free from hypocrisy. As a worm born within a fruit consumes what is inside, leaving only the outer covering, so does hypocrisy annihilate the whole essence of virtue. Hypocrisy is born of vainglory (cf. Mt. 6:1, 2, 5, 16). Vainglory is the vain desire and search for temporary human praise. Vainglory comes from a deep ignorance of God, or a deep forgetfulness of God, of eternity and heavenly glory. That is why in its blindness it insatiably strives to acquire earthly, temporary glory. It imagines this glory, as it also imagines earthly life, to be an eternal, inalienable possession. Vainglory, which seeks not the virtue itself but only praise for the virtue, labors diligently only that it might exhibit a mask of virtue before human eyes. Thus the hypocrite stands before humanity dressed in an outer garment of extreme deception: virtue—the essence of which he does not have at all—is seen on his exterior, while in his soul can be seen self-satisfaction and pomposity, because he first of all deceived and deluded in himself. He takes a sick delight in the vainglory that is killing him and in the misleading of his neighbor, and sickly and detrimentally delights in his successful hypocrisy. Along with all of this, he makes himself alien to God, for every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 16:5).