Dearest Beloved Fathers and Brethren in the Lord,
Do you remember the Fifth week of Lent? Call you recall our last and best Govenie 2019?
“O, Govenie, my Govenie, how graceful you were for me!”
It’s a word we’ve probably not encountered, and yet it’s important to us, without our knowing it. “It’s a word we, our Diocesan clergy, use for our annual gathering during the Great Fast, The word, as best I can find, can be traced to “The Path to Salvation; a Manual of Spiritual Transformation” by St. Theophan the Recluse.” - Fr. Basil Rusen wrote in his weekly bulletin after Govenie 2019, and continues: “It includes three illuminating works: fasting, confession, and communion.”
If God blesses us again to have our Govenie after COVID-19, we can study once again topics such as: “How do we encourage our faithful to live the Orthodox Christian life outside the church?”, or “How do we teach that God’s love for us includes adversity?”, or one of the best of 2019 presentations: “Learning to “know” God so that we allow His love to change us.”
Think about this: we have “more time than money” until our Govenie 2022, but we can learn more than you could possibly imagine. Indeed, words have meaning, but our Lord is the Word of God and His Word is that which each of us must struggle to understand and then embrace.
“Take heed to yourselves” - the Lord says. (Lk. 17:3). If you wish to be saved, carefully look to yourselves (2 Jn. 1:8). These words teach us to watch ourselves, to watch every motion of our soul and its every manifestation in deed and word. One cannot cleanse one’s soul and achieve spiritual perfection without constant focused study of oneself. This truth was also known to some of the heathen wise men who urged their followers: “Know thyself.”
To defeat an enemy, popular wisdom says, one must know him. To crucify one’s inward, sinful man, decaying in passions and lusts (Rom. 18:20 ff.), one must carefully study oneself and know one’s sinful ways and ruinous passions.
There is no man without sin on Earth. Yet he who is ignorant of his passions and sins is spiritually blind and incapable of cleaning himself from spiritual blight. By persisting in his sins, he bars himself from the refreshing and reviving grace of God. “O Lord, grant me to see my own faults,” St Ephrem the Syrian prayed. And St Antony the Great held that to see one’s sins was more conducive to salvation that to see angels.
We must closely follow all our thoughts, words, and deeds. When we have learned to recognize what is sinful in them, we must turn our spiritual eye to our heart and watch what our heart and soul live by and aspire to.
Once we observe our spiritual life carefully, we shall realize that our thoughts are sinful, that there is scarcely any love of God or of our neighbors left in our hearts, that our spiritual life lacks purpose and direction.
“Take heed to yourselves” (Lk. 17:3), see your spiritual corruption and mend your ways before it is too late, before the Lord has cut short your life by death. Before providing for the welfare of our body, we must take care of our soul.
So, my beloved Fathers and Brethren in Christ, “take heed to yourselves” and the Lord will reward you for this labor with Eternal Life in His Kingdom.
Thank you for your prayers. I also pray for you and your own spiritual Lent’s needs.
Finally, I can say with all honesty that as your Vladyka, I want very much to “recharge” yourselves, enduring the days ahead until Pascha is made easier for the effort!
With prayer and love, (S) + Metropolitan JOSEPH