School Chaplain's Message
We currently find ourselves in a period approaching Easter which is a time of immense joy for Christians. We celebrate Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead, the sacrifice that he made through His death on the Cross, so that we can live eternally with him. From the Orthodox perspective, the focus on Christ’s sacrificial death is attached to His Resurrection, which He offers to all who believe in Him. This is the meaning of salvation for a Christian, to be forever in the presence of God. To be eternally resurrected with Him.
For this reason, the Church offers to us a period of prayer and fasting to prepare us for Easter and to enjoy God’s presence.
There are many means to salvation, to preparing our souls to be with God. However, we should not think that the means to salvation automatically bring salvation, merely because they are outwardly observed. In order to understand this, we first need to know what the means to salvation are.
Firstly, there is the worship of God and prayer to Him. True, we can worship and pray to God everywhere, but there is one place where we can be particularly close to Him, and where it is easier to speak to Him in prayer, and that is at church. Only at church are services held in His honour and we can thank Him, worship Him and pray to Him more easily during those services and only at church can we partake of the Holy Sacraments.
Secondly, we can deepen our worship of God through reading and obeying His word, through fasting and through almsgiving.
Just as worship, prayer, reading the Word of God and almsgiving are only means to salvation, and not salvation itself, so fasting too is only a means to drawing closer to God. The Church therefore does not ask us to fast twelve months of the year. It asks us to fast, through Great Lent, the three other Fasts (Apostles, Panagia, Christmas), and Wednesdays and Fridays: to fast for half the year. The Church’s approach is balanced.
There is a saying, ‘We are what we eat’. We can see this especially clearly in Holy Communion. If we come to Communion regularly, we are with Christ and He is with us. But if on the other hand, we never come to Communion, then we shall never be with Christ and He will never be with us.
To summarise: If we sincerely, from our hearts, worship and pray to God, read His Word, fast and give alms, then we are asking for mercy, and thus we find justification. Not justification because of our outward actions, but justification through the Mercy of God, which alone makes our salvation possible. In doing all these things, we are actually saying the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ our God, be merciful to me a sinner’. For it is only the Mercy of God, given as a gift to us, which brings us into His presence, bringing us salvation, for our God is merciful and He loves mankind.
May you have a blessed Easter. Kali Anastasi!
Fr Dimitrios Papaikonomou