One thing struck me squarely from Metropolitan JONAH’s Archpastoral letter for the beginning of the Great Fast: Lent is a time for audacious hope. In his first paragraph he writes,
We fast, we pray, we go to services, and we give alms. But what is different in us the very day after Pascha? Have we attained inner peace? Have we come to self-control over our passions? Has my soul been healed, even a little?
The work we set upon during this time is not without purpose. The most visible aspects of Lent are things like: foods we are giving up, the color purple, and long services. This is just the work, and not the reason for the work. This is spiritual combat; and as the armies are marching towards the battlefields there is the ever present hope of victory. His Beatitude reminds us of this: the victory that comes with true repentance.
Lent is the time for repentance. But that repentance does not simply mean feeling sorry for our sins, much less trying to do some kind of penitential acts to atone for them. Rather, the goal of repentance is the transformation of our minds and hearts, our very consciousness. It means a transformation of our whole life. To engage it means that we have to embrace change. This change not only affects our diet for a few weeks, or abstaining from some bad habits. It means a different way of behaving, of perceiving God, ourselves, our neighbors. It means a rejection and renunciation of the ways we have been living and treating others, and the adoption of a new way of life. We have to come to the recognition that how we have been living and behaving does not lead us deeper into communion with God and our neighbors, but rather alienates us from both, and from our very self.
The tithe of the year is in fact a return to our own humanity, and our own personal identity. Read the whole thing.