As we approach Great Lent, the time given to us specifically for repentance, the Church gives us a whole host of images to help us.
Our Lord Jesus Christ grafts us into His body, inviting us to become saints, “just as He is holy.” (1 Peter 1.16) Our Creator wants us to be in communion with Him in order to taste His grace, which is to participate in His sanctity.
On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Church honours the memory of a “street-walker”, a woman who led such a dissolute life that the word “prostitute” is more of a euphemism rather than an exact description of the depth of her sinfulness. The figure of Blessed Mary is highlighted on the last Sunday of Great Lent: on the one hand, to strike at our Churchy prissiness, since a common harlot is presented as a model of life; and, on the other, to provide an example and a ray of hope for repentance for all those who are slaves to their passions and continue to struggle to find ways to free themselves of them.
The main elements of Great Lent are prayer and fasting. Prayer presupposes faith. Without prayer one is helpless, insecure, blind and alone. Tied to the earth, to matter, one is not aware that they can fly high, to shine in the heavens, to have needed heavenly assistance. They are magnetized, tied, attached to the perishable and earthly. They are not easily detached. They try to acquire treasure on earth. They constantly look for pleasure to cheer them up, instead they get pain out of it. It is sad and pathetic to look for happiness in the mud.
There was a certain elder in one of the monasteries of Palestine, a priest of the holy life and speech, who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs. This elder’s name was Zosimas. He had been through the whole course of the ascetic life and in everything he adhered to the rule once given to him by his tutors as regard spiritual labors.
This Saturday (Saturday of the fifth week of the Great Lent) we chant the Akathist Hymn during Matins. In our days however this does not happen except in the holy monasteries, since in the parishes it is chanted the evening before, on Friday during the Small Compline.
In the Bishopric of the Holy Metropolis of Kastoria there is an icon of the Master Christ which dates to the 15th century and is known as “The Bethlehemite”.