My beloved the benevolent,
Grace and peace wishing you every goodness and blessing.
I would like to congratulate you on the beginning of the Great Lent. The time of the Great Lent is a special spiritual time that the fathers of the church called “the spring of spiritual time”. Lent is tied with charitable and merciful acts for the poor. The Book of Isaiah describes fasting to us as follows: “I did not choose such a fast,“ says the Lord; “rather, loose every bond of wrongdoing; untie the knots of violent dealings; cancel the debts of the oppressed; and tear apart every unjust contact. Break your bread for the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house. If you see a naked man, clothe him, nor shall you disregard your offspring in your own household.” Is.58: 6-7 The acceptable fast is a fast that is mingled with acts of mercy, and acts of mercy include many things as Isaiah mentioned:
- Defending the oppressed and remedying them: the act of oppression is an evil act that entered into man’s life after the corruption of his nature, man began oppressing his brother. The oppressed man is bound by the chains of evil, and has to carry a yoke as a result of the oppression befalling him. Many are crushed by the chains of evil and the yoke of oppression, therefore the children of God should loosen the chains of evil, remove the yoke, set the prisoners free and sever every yoke.
We see much oppression in the world and the oppressed need others to defend them; raise their voices up high and stand up to the oppressor. Christ defended the oppressed, cared for the neglected groups, stood up to the oppressor and rebuked their oppression. Also St. John the Baptist called for a fruitful repentance and said to the tax collectors, “Collect no more than what is appointed to you” and said to the soldiers “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and he content with your wages..” Lu.3:13-14
As there are personal sins, there are also social sins. The oppressive society is a society that does not achieve social justice for its people, it crushes the poor who are born poor and does not allow them to get out of their vicious cycle. Just as there is a type of society who oppresses certain groups of people because of religion or race so that no social justice is achieved. There are reformers who call for social justice, diminishing the inequalities between classes and achieving equal opportunities for all. Christ established the principle of social justice toward others especially with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man did not care for Lazarus the poor and his lack of care became a form of oppression. The poor and needy don’t just need short-term help but they need to experience justice by lifting oppression from them.
Therefore the fasting period is a time to actively defend the oppressed and ask for the rights of the afflicted.
- Lent is a period for merciful acts: …to break bread with the poor, to host strangers and “to invite the poor and lost to your house”. In this day and age we find the problem of the refugees who escape their countries because of persecution or wars, some countries may accept them and some may not. We see many families leave our country Egypt and come for a better future. We need to give special care to the new comers and open our hearts, homes and our churches. Remember the command of the Holy Bible saying, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Heb.13:2 Therefore I invite you, during the blessed Great Lent, to give special care to the new comers, help them in their new life and encourage them to persevere until their situation settles in the new society. Many come in need of work opportunities, residence and appropriate schools for their children. We should not spare in helping them with our experiences and resources. The Great Lent period is a time to do good in order to feel that we are all members in one body, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored; all the members rejoice with it.” 1Cor.12:26 We have fellowship with the needs of the saints by hosting strangers, “Distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” Rom.12:13
May the Lord bless your offering to support St. Verena Charity Program.