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.