Syosset, New York
February 19, 2007
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
One of the most beautiful hymns of the Divine Liturgy is the Cherubic Hymn.
In it, we find a phrase that is deeply powerful and equally comforting: “Let us… now lay aside all earthly cares.”
It is not uncommon to find ourselves engulfed by earthly cares. We worry about such radically diverse things as the economy, politics, our children and their future, the price of gas, terrorism, our health, and “making ends meet.” Despite our sincere efforts to the contrary, we are so surrounded by the world in which we live that we easily can be consumed by it.
The laying aside of our earthly cares is something that we are especially called to do during the Church’s lenten seasons, and specifically during Great Lent. In John 17:15-16, Jesus tells His disciples—and us—that, while we are to be in the world, we are not of the world. Notice that Our Lord does not pray to His Father to take us out of the world; rather, He prays that the Father will keep us from the evil one, that He will keep us safe, that He will allow us to live in the world while focusing on the “cares” that guide us into “the life of the world to come.” And elsewhere in Scripture, Our Lord reveals the keys to maintaining our focus: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the very disciplines we are called to live during Great Lent.
Far from being a time of gloom or “added burdens,” Great Lent is a time to free ourselves from our earthly cares, to focus on “the one thing needful,” and to change our hearts and our minds, our vision and our spiritual direction, through the spirit of repentance. Thus, we lighten the earthly cares and “baggage” we so often carry. We allow Our Lord to loosen, and ultimately remove, those things that have become yokes. We refrain from worldly concerns and earthly food in order to “taste and see how good the Lord is.” We recommit ourselves to carrying out, each of us in our own unique way, Our Lord’s mission in and to the world, while we reaffirm that He has indeed conquered the world by His selfless love for us.
As we take the first step in this year’s lenten journey on Forgiveness Sunday, let us above all ask one another for forgiveness, especially for those “earthly cares” with which we have burdened others. Let us seek Our Lord’s forgiveness, fully acknowledging that He knows our hearts and our intentions. And, having had our burdens lightened by His loving kindness and mercy, let us cling all the more to the One Who is our only Helper and Protector in a world that indeed can consume us unawares.
And finally, I ask your forgiveness, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for the sins I have committed, and for the times in which I too have failed to lay aside the earthly cares that have so often burdened me.
Let us “begin the honorable Fast with joy,” thanking Our Most Merciful Savior for yet another opportunity to experience the life of the world to come, still to be fully revealed, yet already fully present in His Holy Body, the Church.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada