Metropolitan Tikhon's Archpastoral Message for Lent 2023
Metropolitan Tikhon's Lenten message for 2023 has many great points for the Lenten journey. So, we have divided it into three parts to allow for greater benefit.
In the reading from the prophecy of Isaiah on the first day of the fast, we hear a word of caution. Our annual observance of times and seasons, our gatherings to worship, are not, in and of themselves, pleasing unto God. “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? Who requires of you this trampling of my courts? Incense is an abomination to me. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates. Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen.” (See Is. 1:11–15.) Lest we set out to fast hypocritically, believing that our abstinence will win us God’s approval, the prophet reminds us that external religion is futile without moral reformation. The Lord calls upon his people to “learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Is. 1:17).
But our sins, as numerous as the sands of the seashore, are not so easily corrected. We may seem to make progress toward one virtue, or triumph over one temptation. We may make some progress in serving our brethren and neighbors. But then we recognize further sins, perhaps sins we had never recognized before. There is no one good but God alone, as Our Lord himself declares (Mk. 10:18). Our fasting is useless without real change for the good, but real change for the good can seem to lie beyond our grasp. We are called to wash ourselves, to make ourselves clean, but we cannot do so (Is. 1:16). But the Lord, who loves us, who desires our salvation, who in love grants us freedom and desires our participation in his saving act, promises, through the prophet, what we cannot do: he will make us clean, provided we are “willing and obedient”:
Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land… I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. (Is. 1:18–19, 25)
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