by St. John of Shanghai
The doors of repentance are opening, Great Lent is beginning. It is repeated every year, and each time it brings us great benefit if we spend it the right way. Great Lent is preparation for the future life, while in the shorter term it is preparation for the Bright Resurrection.
Just as in a tall building the staircase is constructed in a way that makes it easier to ascend to the building’s heights, so are various days of the year steps for our spiritual upliftment and ascent.
The days of Great Lent and Holy Pascha are just such days.
By Great Lent we are cleansed of sinful defilement, and on Holy Pascha we feel the blessedness of the coming of Christ’s Kingdom. When people are climbing a high mountain, they try to free themselves of all extra weight. The less someone is burdened, the easier it is for him to climb, and the higher he can ascend.
So, in order to spiritually ascend we first of all need to free ourselves of sinful burdens. They are removed from us through repentance under the inalienable condition that we ourselves would cast off from ourselves all enmity and forgive everyone we consider guilty before us. Then we will greet Christ’s Bright Resurrection cleansed and forgiven.
What is the precious gift of God we receive at conclusion of our Lenten podvig? We are told of this in the first hymns that begin the daily chanting of the Lenten stichera: “And we shall be given as food the Lamb of God, brought to the slaughter for our sakes and communed by the disciples at the Mystical Supper, on the sacred and light-bearing night of the Resurrection.”
Communion of the Body and Blood of the Resurrected Christ in life eternal—this is the goal of the holy Forty Days. We receive Communion not only on Pascha. To the contrary, those who receive communion on Pascha are those who prepared themselves, went to confession, and received Communion during Great Lent. Right before Pascha itself there is no opportunity to confess well and thoroughly—the time and the priests are too occupied with the services of Holy Week. We therefore need to prepare ourselves for this ahead of time.
Every Communion of Christ’s Mysteries is union with Christ Himself, and salvific for us. Why is Communion on the night of Holy Pascha of such significance? Because then, we are given to especially feel Christ’s Kingdom. We are then especially illumined with the Eternal Light and strengthened for spiritual ascent.
That irreplaceable gift of Christ is an incomparable good. Let no one deprive himself of this joy, running to eat meat and other repasts instead of hastening to receive Communion. Then our partaking of the Holy Mysteries will prepare us for the feast in the eternal Kingdom of God.