Orthodox Observer - February 20, 1998



By Archbishop Spyridon

Beloved in the Lord:

As we begin our preparations for the approaching season of Great Lent, let us look to the Scriptural inspiration of the Clergy Laity Congress for new perspective and wisdom: "A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you" (Ezekiel 36:26).

This marvelous promise of God through His Prophet was fulfilled first on the Day of Pentecost, and through Baptism can continue to be experienced by each and every one of us, as we lead lives worthy of our calling. In fact, we need to actualize this promise daily, even in the simplest matters of our life.

As human beings, we require a certain amount of regularity and continuity. As a result, we tend to become accustomed to the vagaries of human existence; we tend to accept as 'normal' the fallen status of this world. Even though we do not identify this with sin or sinfulness, a certain laxity and dull acceptance of the status quo creeps into our world view. Our minds are quick to think and calculate, but our hearts are too often slow to accept others as they are. Over time, we grow either cold or falsely sentimental, and we fail to see the central meaning of sacrificial love. Reason triumphs over love, and our hearts turn to stone.

But the promise of God is that He will give us a new heart, a heart of flesh full of compassion, mercy and love. The promise of God is that He will give us a new spirit, His Spirit, the All-Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit. Through the indwelling Spirit of God, we can learn to live differently, think differently — to change our lives for the better. Even though we may acquire the whole world — power, money, fame, if we do not acquire the Holy Spirit, we shall have gained nothing. What adds lasting value, eternal value to our life is that relationship with God and one another that is possible only within the life of the Spirit, the life of the Church.

There are many times in the course of life when we 'forget' this truth, even if only for a moment. A word ill-timed, a glance too-quick, a short hearing rather than a long listen — even these simple and ordinary human failings are indicative of deeper spiritual condition. We forget to love, how to love, why to love, because we forget the essential truth of love.

"Herein is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us, and sent His Sop-to be the offering for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one arfother." (I John 4:10-11)

My friends, let us greet this coming Lent as a welcome opportunity for all of us to take a deeper look within, a measure of the value of our love. Is our heart made of stone, or made of flesh? Is our inspiration the possibilities of only this world, or of the Holy Spirit of God?

During these Holy Days, I pray that we all shall lay claim to the promise of this wonderful prophecy which has been chosen as a spiritual motto for the coming Clergy-Laity Congress. May we each find a new heart for loving God and one another, and a new spirit to infuse our Church, our families and our lives.

[ Orthodox Observer - February 20, 1998 - p. 6 ]