On Prayer, Fasting and Bearing the Cross
By Archbishop Averky
A life of fasting, properly understood as general self-limitation and abstinence, to the annual practice of which the Church always calls us with the Great Lent, is really that bearing of the cross and self-crucifixion which is required of us by our calling as Christians. And anyone who stubbornly resists this, wanting to live a carefree, happy, and free life, is concerned for sensual pleasures and avoids sorrow and suffering - that person is not, a Christian.
Bearing one's cross is the natural way of every true Christian, without which there is no Christianity.
Sincere prayer unites man and God. But nowhere can prayer be as fervent and effective as in God's temple, for there the Awesome Bloodless sacrifice is constantly offered "for all people and all things," there c ceaseless prayer is made on behalf of all the faithful, there "the very air is Holy," in the words of one of our devoutly wise bishops.
It was not in vain that our God-bearing Fathers from of old called the temple a "school of virtue."
Money! Money! Power! Honor! ? these are the temptations which, unfortunately, many people are unable to resist.
This is the source of all the disputes, disagreements and divisions among Christians.
This is the root of people's forgetting the "one thing needed" which is proposed to us by the true Christian faith and which consists of prayer, acts of repentance, and sincere, unhypocritical charity to our neighbors. The Holy Church always calls us to this, but especially now, during the Great Lent!
What is required of us Christians is not some kind of "exalted politics," not lofty phrases and hazy philosophy, but the most humble prayer of the Publican: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!", acts of repentance, and doing good to our neighbors, which proceeds from a pure heart.
And it is for the practice of all of this that the Church has established the Great Lent!
How powerfully, colorfully, graphically, and convincingly, with what ardent inspiration is all of this spoken of in the divine services of Great Lent!
No one anywhere has such a wealth of edification in this regard as do we Orthodox in our incomparable Lenten services, which, to their shame, the majority of Orthodox in our times do not know at all.
Truly never before has the cross of each person who wants to be a true Christian been as heavy as in this time of the triumph of falsehood which we are experiencing.
Never before on this earth has there been such a huge number of people who freely and easily, without any shame, without any pangs of conscience "call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20).