To the faithful of St. George Orthodox Church, at the beginning of the Holy Fast,
Brothers and sisters, good strength to you all!
As we enter into Great Lent recall these words from the hymnody of our Church that commemorate the casting out of Adam from paradise:
“O blessed meadow, trees and flowers planted by God, O sweetness of paradise: let your leaves, like eyes, shed tears on my behalf, for I am naked and a stranger to God’s glory.
“No longer do I see thee nor delight in thy joy and splendour, O precious paradise. For I have angered my Creator, and naked I have been driven out into the world.” (Canticle 4 Sunday of Forgiveness)
Certainly we have all often heard the leaves of trees rustle in the wind.
And the more the weather begins to change, the stronger the wind, and the louder they become.
When Adam was weeping, having been shut out of paradise, unable even to see inside, he was still close enough to hear the trees- Shhh, Shhh, Shhh – and he asks them to offer a prayer for him.
And although Adam wandered far, and filled all of the earth, yet the sound of paradise continuously lingered in his heart. Everywhere he went creation was full of longing, softly whispering the prayer for his return to paradise.
And for us, for Adam’s children, the rustle of the leaves has become a clear and commanding voice:
“Repent! Turn around! The door to paradise has been opened for you again! You wandered away from him throughout your existence. But the Lord searched for you. He searched for you down a long and confused path. Turn around now and pursue Him into the reopened depths of paradise!”
Brothers and sisters, after so long a time walking into the night, turning back to seek the Sun of Righteousness will be hard, and painful. But, nevertheless, turn back! Pursue the Lord from glory to glory! And sometimes, when you forget your food out of love for God, may you find His presence to be a feast!
Let us remember that it was because of what seemed pleasing, what seemed good, but what was against the command of God that Adam fell. He fell from a desire for sweetness, a desire for pleasure that was beyond what God had commanded, and in excess of all the pleasurable things that he had already been given. So let us fast as we remember how we lost paradise, just like the children of Israel abstained from song when they remembered Zion in the midst of their exile.
And yet, let us also remember that the door to paradise is closer than our own skin, and its leaves stir within our own hearts.
The door of repentance is the door to paradise!
And through repentance, may the Lord make, even the fiery furnace of exile moist with dew, and your fasting sweeter than honey!
With love in Christ,