The Ethos of Lent

OrthodoxyToday.org | Fr. George Morelli | Apr. 1, 2008

The ethos of Lent for the committed Orthodox Christian is told to us by St. Dorotheus of Gaza. He likened it to a wake up call, ‘a coming to one’s self’ (like the Prodigal Son) to find meaning for the entire year. The “great and saving forty days” are to wake us up to all times and seasons of all year.

St. Dorotheus means more than this year only because each and every year are ‘God’s times.’ God created and redeemed the world. We “tithe” as St. Dorotheus instructs us, in thanksgiving to God not merely for these forty days but for all times. Lent is to help us bring to mind the entire year and all our lives.

Lent is not meant for God, but Lent is made for mankind. Once again God gives Himself to us.

In his Discourses and Sayings, St. Dorotheus tells us:

You see, God gave us these holy days so that by diligence in abstinence, in the spirit of humility and repentance, a man may be cleansed of the sins of the whole year and the soul relieved of its burden. Purified he goes forward to the holy day of the resurrection, and being made a new man through the change of heart induced by the fast..

What does it take to have a change of heart? Like in one of the Gospels read in preparation for the Lenten period, the story of Zacchaeus, we have to first see ourselves as small and needing to see Christ. What are the requirements? We have to see ourselves as ‘potentially’ nothing. Without God, we are not small in stature but infinitesimally minute, actually non-existent.

Do we reflect on this? Our worth, as creatures are completely dependent on God. Do we see it sense this? We are made in Gods image, Do we reflect on this? Our intelligence and free will come from Him? Do we acknowledge this?

. . . more