Let us not fulfill these days like those that mourn, but, by enjoying spiritual food, let us seek to silence our fleshly lusts.” These were the words of our great father, St. Athanasius the Apostolic, in his fourth festal message to the Christian world in 332 AD. He proclaims the announcement of the fasts and feasts, of the children who seek the spiritual food and the heavenly blessing.
St. Cyril of Alexandria likened the priests of the church to ministers of silver trumpets mentioned in Numbers 10:1-2 who announced and concluded the feasts of God in the days of Israel. St. Cyril, as bishop of Alexandria, had a special duty to announce the Great Feasts of the Church, especially the dates of Lent, Pascha and Pentecost in accordance with the tradition from the Council of Nicea—a theme which often introduced his festal letters. Echoes the scriptural image in Mt. 24:31 and Rev. 8,
St. Cyril introduces his seventh festal letter by saying, “I consider it reasonable and proper that we especially who, belonging to the divine priesthood, bear the sacred trumpet in our mouth, should give the clarion signal for the festival and gather together as for a common banquet those who are from everywhere.” Saint John Chrysostom also saw the bishop as a trumpeter warning of impending destruction in Ezekiel 33. ((See CUA, v. 118, p. 125, note 2, citing St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, 6.1.)). Let us obey the trumpet of feast and fast, so that we may obey that trumpet warning of destruction and doom! Let our homes be filled with graceful obedience and loving kindness always, and not selfishness, mistrust, and jealousy.
I know it sounds difficult to accept a day of fasting; but let us be honest and diligent servants, who obey the words of their master. As the children who honor the voice of their parents; let us accept as children of the church and of the Most High God, the instructions that we receive from her. The Church instructs us to feast and to fast, let us listen to their instruction. As we heard on the day of our baptism, and as our sponsors who would be responsible for us, were commanded to teach us each fast and feast of the Church. Let us not be weak in time of difficulty. One may say this commandment, this instruction is difficult for me, let us not stray. If a child tells his parents one instruction is difficult for him, it gives him no excuse. One parent, out of his compassion, may grant a permission for the child not to obey the instruction; but how great is the love found of that child who obeys in the time of difficulty! But let not that child assume and seize this without permission and blessing.
Many have complained that 2010 brings upon a heavy burden of fasting. Our early celebration of the Feast of Pascha comes an early Lent and an extended Fast of the Apostles. In the dawn of this year, let us be committed to our fasts of the church; let us be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God. For as St. Paul the Apostle reminds us, “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). Our world is in need of many prayers-for the sick, for the diseased, for those oppressed, for those separated from their families and loved ones. For those in war, for the victims of war, oppression, terrorism, and the financial crisis. For those who have lost their jobs; for those who are struggling to feed and raise their families in the Christian path. For those who are far from the light and love of Christ; for those searching for comfort in a time of sorrow, weakness, and affliction. For those who are drowning in sin and continuously reject the voice of God in their lives. For those who are placed in the position of leadership, and are not diligent to the voice of God and the virtues which please Him.
For our year to be successful and blessed, for our prayers to be acceptable as a sweet fragrance before the Most High and living Father, let us fill this year with fasting and prayer, with metanias and prostrations, with liturgy and psalmody. Let the aroma of incense fill the house of the Church from the first days to the last. Let our thanksgivings be abundant, thanking Him 100 fold for each spiritual and physical blessing He has provided out of His great kindness. O Lord, we have experienced what Moses heard, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…” (Ex. 34:6). We have tasted of the sweetness of Your kindness, mercy, grace and love, and have experienced the goodness that comes from You (Ps. 34:8). We believe in You; we trust in You; we hope in You; we adore You; we belong to You. Let us remain with You forever; let us remain blessed by You forever; let us be full of glory, praise and worship for You, with Him and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the age of all ages. Amen.