A SCHOOL OF REPENTANCE
Its Meaning for Orthodox Christians
The Rt. Rev. Alexander Schmemann
DEPARTMENT OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA
THE TIME OF REPENTANCE
"Brethren, while fasting bodily, let us also fast spiritually; let us loosen every bond of injustice; let us destroy the strong fetters of violence; let us tear up every unjust writing; let us give bread to the hungry and let us welcome the homeless poor to our houses, that from Christ our God we may receive the great mercy."
(Stichira, Wednesday of the First Week)
We are approaching again the Great Lent—the time of repentance, the time of our reconciliation with God. Repentance is the beginning and also the condition of a truly Christian life. "Repent!" was the first word of Christ when He began to preach (Matt. 4:17).
But what is repentance? In the daily rush of our life we have no time to think about it, we simply take it for granted that we must go to confession, receive absolution, and then forget all about it until next year. Yet there must be a reason why our Church has set apart seven weeks as a special time of repentance and calls each Orthodox Christian to a special spiritual effort. And this reason must obviously concern me, my life, my faith, my membership in the Church. I must try to understand it, to follow as much as I can the teachings of my Church, be Orthodox not only by name, but in life itself.
What then is repentance? Great Lent gives the answer to this question. It is indeed a school of repentance, to which each Christian must go every year in order to refresh the understanding of his faith. It is a wonderful pilgrimage to the very sources of Orthodoxy, a rediscovery of a truly Orthodox way of life. Let us try to make these forty days as meaningful, as deep, and as rich, as possible.
In this brief explanation of Lent we shall deal with:
—the preparation for Great Lent,
—the Lenten worship of the Orthodox Church,
—the Orthodox teaching on fasting, prayer and other spiritual efforts prescribed during Lent...