A Great Temptation During Great Lent
For the third year in a row, we are distracted during this most holy time of the year: Great Lent and Holy Pascha. For two years in a row, the Covid-19 pandemic had us worried about being out in public places or even coming to church. Glory be to God that we passed through this without any major issues. Nevertheless, the concerns over the pandemic and its potential dangers distracted us from our prayers and repentance, both so necessary for our salvation.
Now, in this third year, the Evil One distracts us once again with a most horrible war in our homeland. I do not say specifically Russia or Ukraine, as both are part of our homeland. While, politically speaking, this is an invasion of one nation into another, we, as Russian Orthodox Christians, are deeply pained by this because—spiritually speaking—this is a war between brothers arising from a set of political circumstances causing an historically, culturally, and, most importantly, spiritually single people—our brothers and sisters in Christ—to spill each other’s blood. This can only be the work of the Evil One, who seeks to divide and to destroy.
How do we deal with this terrible situation, which is so close to our hearts? Does this not distract us, yet again, from this holiest time of the year? Of course it does. And it is here we must combat that distraction and attempt to do something about that which so occupies our concerns today. We must redouble our efforts in prayer and fasting. We must not allow the Evil One to distract us from this, for this is the only true weapon we have to help ourselves and the situation in our homeland. There is no point in trying to analyze the politics of this situation, as we do not have all the information needed to be able to properly understand what is going on, especially given that we cannot trust the information given to us by our mainstream media. Even if we did have all of the information and had it all figured out, there is nothing we could do about it from a political standpoint, and furthermore, each of us will have his or her own interpretation of these events and who we believe is to blame for it. Engaging in such discussions will only bring disagreement and discord among families, friends and parishioners—dividing us, as the Evil One has divided our brothers and sisters in our homeland.
In our Church we have people who identify as Russian, Ukrainian, Palestinian, American, Greek, Eritrean, and other ethnicities. Why then are we all here together? It is because our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to unity in Him. It is the fact that we are, above all else, Orthodox Christians. Our Holy Church prays not for the suffering people of one side or the other, but for both. We pray, not for victory, but for peace. Can our prayers be enough to make a difference? Absolutely. For seventy years, the faithful of our Russian Orthodox Church Abroad fasted, repented, and prayed during Great Lent and throughout the year for the freedom of our homeland from the godless regime of the Soviet Union. In 1991, almost without warning, and with hardly a drop of blood being spilled, our Merciful Lord answered our collective prayer.
A new plague of animosity and division attacks our homeland once again. Let us, together with our predecessors and all of the Saints and New Martyrs of our homeland make fervent our prayers and beseech Our Resurrected Savior to keep us from animosity and division and restore peace and brotherly love to our homeland.