“A fast without mutual love is the fast of demons…”

“… there can be no true fast, no genuine repentance, no reconciliation with God, unless we are at the same time reconciled with one another. A fast without mutual love is the fast of demons… We do not travel the road of Lent as isolated individuals but as members of a family.”     -His Grace, Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia 

From The Cup of Christ By St. Ignatius Brianchaninov:

“Pray to the Lord on behalf of those who have insulted and outraged you — that what they have done for you should be repaid by [both] a temporal blessing and [the] eternal reward of salvation; and that when they stand before Christ to be judged, it should be counted to them as if it had been an act of virtue. Although your heart does not wish to act in this way, compel it to do so; because only those who do violence to their own heart, in fulfilling the commandments of the Gospel, can inherit Heaven.”

From My Life in Christ by St. John Kronstadt:

“It is well to place candles before the icons. But it is still better if you bring as a sacrifice to God the light of your love for Him and your neighbor. It is well that the one should be accompanied by the other. But if you place candles before the icons and have no love for God and your neighbor in your heart, if you are avaricious, if you do not live in peace with others—then your sacrifice to God is in vain.”

First of Two Reflections on the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 13, Verses 14-16

Our Lord said:

 “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which said, “By hearing you shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see and shall not perceive;  for this people’s heart has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and they have closed their eyes, lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.”

Matthew recorded these sayings in Greek. They recount the words of a man whose native tongue was Aramaic and who himself was quoting a writer who used Hebrew. This Babel of language complicates things, but also enriches.

Lent is the time to renew our vigilance over our hearts, to sharpen our sight, and reinvigorate our hearing. One way to do this is to depart for a while from the translation of the Bible that our hand most often falls to. English has developed to the point that most words have the singular beauty of an individual red rose, clear and crisp. Other languages, as do the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament, more often resemble a single branch of an ancient azalea. While the impression of the branch may be white or pink, a closer look reveals shadings in tint, streaks of color, and a richness in vibrancy that defies easy description.

Translations of the Bible into English use the precision of a single stem to describe the swirls of color within the original words. Ask your priest or a trusted elder to recommend a translation unfamiliar to you. Read it through Lent and beyond if you wish, comparing it with your old favorite. Hear the words fresh, as if for the first time, and pray to God for the grace to ever be more fully converted.

From a prayer of St. Antioch:

O Lord, enlighten my mind with the understanding of Your Holy Gospel. Enlighten my heart with the purity of Your Word. Enlighten my body with Your passionless Passion. Keep my thoughts in Your humility. Amen.Christ the True Vine