Archimandrite Luke reading the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete during the first week of Great Lent.

“I Was Born This Way” is Not the Utterance of a Christian

In accor­dance with the typikon of Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery, the broth­er­hood take part in the Rite of For­give­ness on the night of Cheese­fare Sun­day (also known as For­give­ness Sun­day), at the end of the Order of Small Com­pline. Pri­or to ask­ing the for­give­ness of the broth­er­hood and of all present, the monastery’s abbot, Archi­man­drite Luke, gave the fol­low­ing word on the com­ing lenten struggle:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

Dear broth­ers and sisters, 

Lent is a time to sow. Those who sow spar­ing­ly will reap spar­ing­ly. Those who sow gen­er­ous­ly will reap gen­er­ous­ly. It is time to sow in repen­tance. But repen­tance is not sim­ply, “I’m sor­ry. For­give me.” No! Repen­tance is a change, a change of life. There are those who say, “I was born this way.” There are those who say, “This is my char­ac­ter. You can’t change me.” These are not the words of a Chris­t­ian! Even more, these are not the words of a monk. In our call­ing as Chris­tians and monas­tics, we should be con­stant­ly in the process of chang­ing from some­thing neg­a­tive to some­thing pos­i­tive, to some­thing more virtuous.

In some ways we resem­ble the ancient phar­isees we heard about the oth­er week. We say our prayers in the morn­ing and at night, we attend some ser­vices, we ful­fill min­i­mal obe­di­ences, and then we feel self-sat­is­fied. “We’ve done enough.” And the rest of the day, what is in our hearts, our minds, and our souls? Vain thoughts, var­i­ous recre­ation­al plans, and so on. There is no place for God in our hearts — only briefly, and that with self-satisfaction.

We should not live just for our plea­sures! Lent is a time for self-exam­i­na­tion. It is a time to cast off self-decep­tion. God is not mocked,1 although He is long-suf­fer­ing. One hun­dred years ago, He allowed the most pow­er­ful Ortho­dox gov­ern­ment, the most pow­er­ful Ortho­dox empire to be destroyed com­plete­ly. Why did this hap­pen? We need to think about it. St Paul said to the Chris­tians of his time, and I think this applies to what hap­pened a hun­dred years ago and to us today, “You have piety, but it is only super­fi­cial. There is no depth to your piety and there­fore there is no pow­er to your piety.“2 If there had been pow­er, there would have been resistance. 

Let us togeth­er begin this lenten peri­od with a promise to ful­fill exact­ly, as well as we can, all the com­mand­ments of Christ that are found in the Holy Gospel; and in this way, we might with God’s help turn away “His right­eous threat­en­ing which hangeth over us.“3

Dear broth­ers and sis­ters, noth­ing stops the grace of God like tak­ing offense and remem­brance of wrongs. This is the day that at least once a year we can ask for­give­ness of one anoth­er and then hope the grace of God will descend upon us. For­give me if I have offend­ed you in any way — in word, deed, or thought.

For­give me, a sinner!

The above text was tran­scribed from audio and light­ly edit­ed for read­abil­i­ty and to fit our edi­to­r­i­al style.