In the lead up to Pascha, we are slowly but steadily initiated into the Orthodox way of life through the period of Great Lent. Throughout these six weeks preceding Holy Week we are encouraged to: fast in order to detach from our desires; give alms so that we may connect with our neighbour; and, pray more than we usually do to be filled with the grace of God.
For many people Great Lent is just a cycle in their yearly calendar where they “must” abstain from certain foods, temporarily cut out some bad habits, attend a few extra Sunday Liturgies and then Commune on Holy Thursday before going back to the same old “normal life” after Pascha. However if we wish to take Great Lent seriously, we should consider it a spiritual journey rather than a religious obligation.
Repentance is the central theme of Christianity. It is the teaching of St John the Forerunner in preparation for the coming of the Lord and it is also the starting point of our Lord’s teaching: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17).
Repentance, therefore, is in truth the beginning of the life in Christ.
In his conversation with Nicholas Motovilov, St Seraphim of Sarov instructs that the aim of the Christian life is to acquire the Holy Spirit. Practising the virtues should not be the goal of our spiritual life; rather the virtues should be the means by which the goal is achieved.
The previous articles (Part 1 and Part 2) discussed why we pray, what prayer is, when we pray and where we should pray, all important practical questions for living in an Orthodox Christian manner. This article deals with how we should pray, and goes very briefly into certain ways to make our prayer more effective.
The previous article discussed what prayer is and why we pray. Now we turn to when and where we should pray, both important practical questions for living in an Orthodox Christian manner. Again, this article will draw heavily from the Church Fathers and Saints.
So much could be said about this topic. This article will start off by answering a couple of basic questions about prayer in order to get the ball rolling.
Just a short disclaimer here, this article doesn’t come from some great authority on prayer and the ascetic struggle. It comes from a struggling student. However, I will quote from real experts, saints who lived the words of St Paul to “pray unceasingly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
This second article on warfare and Orthodoxy plans to focus on the warfare that every baptised Orthodox Christian is called to engage in, the spiritual warfare. Many great books have been written on this very subject, and this author would recommend the four volumes of the Evergetinos, Unseen Warfare by St Theophan the Recluse, and The Field and The Arena by St Ignatius Brianchaninov. These provide step by step methods by which we can start to take our spiritual lives seriously and engage in spiritual exercise. First among these books is the Ladder of Divine Ascent of St John Climacus, which is traditionally read during Great Lent. What follows is but a brief summary of the idea of spiritual warfare.
"What do I need?" A Lenten reflection on passages from the spiritual diary of St John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ
St John of Kronstadt, a saint of the 19th century, made some Lenten reflections on the things that are necessary in this life. He starts, “What do I need? I need nothing upon earth besides the indispensable. What do I need? I need the Lord, I need His grace, His kingdom within me.”