Prot. No. 0482/2019
I know that all of you have received Lenten messages from your bishops. Joining with them I am also oﬀering a few reﬂections on the observance of the Lent as it is a great time in the life of a Christian for self- puriﬁcation and union with God.
The Oriental Churches observe Fifty days of Lent in preparation for the Easter. This is known as Fifty Days of Lent or the Great Lent in the Syro-Malabar Church. This came to be known as Fifty days of Lent because it is being celebrated from Ash Monday to the Easter Sunday. We call it Lent (Noimbu) because of the abstinence from meat and ﬁsh that we observe during those days.
Fasting is also an observance that goes with Lent. The traditional custom of the Syro-Malabar faithful of observing abstinence on all days of Lent and especially on Fridays is still being practiced by many people. Observing fasting and abstinence and receiving the sacrament of reconciliation are the best ways of spiritual renewal that can be practiced in Lent. I urge all the faithful to observe the Lent in this fruitful manner.
As man’s being consists of body, soul and mind, it is necessary to practice the control of the body in order to experience renewal in mind and soul. The force of evil is very active in each one of us and also in our society. We read in the Gospels how Jesus was tempted by the Satan through the temptation of food, glory and honour. Jesus refers to the power of Satan in his rebuke of Peter: LK 22:31-32)
The release from bondage was very much emphasized by Jesus in his speech at the synagogue at Nazareth. It is the force of evil that binds us .We have to examine our life style that makes us bound to many bondages that make us lose our spiritual freedom. This season of Lent is a good occasion for us to realize the diﬀerence between the good and evil and getting freedom from bondages. A good observance of the Lent will give us freedom from the addiction to alcoholism, the use of drugs, lust and attachment to glory and honour. We have also to be watchful of our involvement in social evils like extravagance in celebrations, construction, pollution of the environment, destruction of public property, corruption etc. We have to attain freedom from these evils which is necessary for the stability and sustenance of the society. We should become deeply conscious of the great evil that is being perpetrated against life when people are murdered in political and social conﬂicts.
We should reﬂect during this season of Lent on the created world, which is a gift from God to us, and all the environmental crises we face. I would urge everyone to avoid doing anything that would pollute the environment during and also to desist from activities that would bring harm to the environment. It is necessary for the preservation of life to keep unpolluted our air, water and the environment. It is a sign of our gratitude to God the Creator as well as a strong pledge to the future generations of mankind.
Lent is a time for us to rededicate ourselves to the welfare of humanity by facing the hostile forces against human life through the values of the Gospel. Abortion, mercy-killing, gender-based discriminations especially against women, negligence of Dalits, tribals and the physically disabled are threats against life. We have to show respect and honour to all by protecting human life at all its diﬀerent stages.
Closeness to God helps us to become closer to our brethren. This season of Lent should become an occasion for all the faithful to come closer to others as the members of the Body of Christ and to all men as the members of the human race in a strong bond of love. We have to share generously from what we have with the needy especially with the orphans, refugees, the marginalized , the elderly and the diﬀerently-abled.
This is the time for us to deepen our relationship with God in obedience as well as in humility. Prayers, meditations on God’s word,, reception of the sacraments, doing acts of charity etc. can be the observances that we can make during this Lent. We shall grow in the practice of charity by aligning ourselves with the glory of God by treading the path of holiness and self-renewal.
George Cardinal Alencherry
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church