Christ is Risen!
Thy Resurrection, O Christ, our Savior, the angels in heaven sing, enable us on earth to glorify Thee in purity of heart!
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by Fr. Alexander Schmemann
A Homily delivered to the community at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary
Forgiveness Sunday of 1983
As once more we are about to enter the Great Lent, I would like to remind us – myself first of all, and all of you my fathers, brothers, and sisters – of the verse that we just sang, one of the stichera, and that verse says:"Let us begin Lent, the Fast, with joy."
Only yesterday we were commemorating Adam crying, lamenting at the gates of Paradise, and now every second line of the Triodion and the liturgical books of Great Lent will speak of repentance, acknowledging what dark and helpless lives we live, in which we sometimes are immersed. And yet, no one will prove to me that the general tonality of Great Lent is not that of a tremendous joy! Not what we call "joy" in this world – not just something entertaining, interesting, or amusing – but the deepest definition of joy, that joy of which Christ says: "no one will take away from you" (Jn. 16:22). Why joy? What is that joy?
So many people under various influences have come to think of Lent as a kind of self–inflicted inconvenience. Very often in Lent we hear these conversations: "What do you give up for Lent?" – it goes from candy to, I don’t know what. There is the idea that if we suffer enough, if we feel the hunger enough, if we try by all kinds of strong or light ascetical tools, mainly to "suffer" and be "tortured," so to speak, it would help us to "pay" for our absolution. But this is not our Orthodox faith. Lent is not a punishment. Lent is not a kind of painful medicine that helps only inasmuch as it is painful...
After the preparatory weeks getting us ready for Great Lent, we come to the First Sunday of the Fast. There are two themes to this Sunday. The first theme, of course, is historical: the restoration of icons for use in worship and devotion in the Church after many years of iconoclasm. The second is the theme echoed by Philip: Come and See.
These themes are related to each other...