Encyclical For Great Lent 2011

The Encyclical Letter of His Eminence, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

God is with us!

During the Ecclesiastical Year, the sacred period of Great Lent is distinguished. The first week of Great Lent is called “Clean Week,” the allotted time when we are to begin abstaining and fasting for our cleansing from harmful distractions. The first day of Great Lent is Clean Monday and we realize that true fasting is not only the abstention of certain foods, but is foremost the deliverance from anger, rage, gossip, lies, hate and slander.

In the Great Compline Service the verse that is heard over and over is well known:

“God is with us,”

chanted to remind the faithful that God is our companion in life. From the Hebrew, the word that coincides with this verse is “Emmanuel”, the name given to our Savior which implies His coming into the world to dwell with mankind (Matthew 1:23).

During His three year ministry our Lord offered Himself for the salvation of all people.  Our Savior does not cease to be found close to our lives; we live, we move about and exist in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Standing at the door of our heart, the Lord knocks so that He may enter into our lives to grant us abundant life.

Our spiritual journey through Great Lent is centered upon the reality of God’s presence in our lives.  There is a continuous theme that calls us to turn back to God.  Only by restoring our spiritual bond with our Heavenly Father can we travel the road of Great Lent in faith and love. This is most beautifully experienced in the Holy Sacrament of Confession where we ease the burdens of our sins in order to purify our conscience. Perhaps it is best understood in the words offered by Saint John the Evangelist who wrote:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

We are all called to change and unite our lives to Christ.

The entrance of divine grace into the heart of mankind is accomplished through faith and love. This is what our Savior meant when He said:

“And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him”(John 14:21b).

Those who desire to have God dwelling in their heart are obligated to love, for God resides in the hearts of those who love Him.

I want to take this opportunity to wish you a blessed journey through Great Lent. My paternal wish is that you participate in the divine services of Great Lent this year, especially by participating in the Sacramental life of the Church.  In this way, Great Lent may truly become the holy season of renewal for all!

There is nothing greater than to have God dwell in the lives of His people, for this reason we must preserve ourselves spiritually and physically to be His temple; it is our sacred duty to do good things for others daily as we walk in the grace of God.  St. Paul reassures us when he writes:

“If God is with us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

May you have a blessed Great Lent!

With Love in Christ,
Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco