Message to Youth for the Great Fast from Bishop John of Parma 

Self-mastery is a goal of Great Lent: mastery not only of self, but also of those things not worthy of God. 

Young people are often counseled to strive for “self-mastery.” This concept is appropriate to our Great Fast consideration.

Especially in this country, this may be understood from the viewpoint of a master who has control over another (slave).

This form of relationship denies one person the right to make decisions; it actually removes the one’s personhood. Even the Greek word for master, “despota” gives us the word “despot,” meaning a leader who exercises authority with no restrictions.

“Self-mastery” may be understood in this way as becoming master of myself, as controlling that in me which is not worthy of God. This implies that part of me is not good, but that seems to contradict our understanding that all God created was good.

Consider another use of the word. An expert in something is also called a master, like a master carpenter, or a master of the piano. This is a person to be sought out, not avoided. From such a person, we can learn and possibly advance to become a master ourselves. This kind of master lifts us up rather than holds us down, offers us freedom to be rather than suppression.

This is the context in which Jesus was called “Master.” He was the perfect teacher, the master of living. He never wielded a strong hand of domination but reached out a hand of service. He offers us his example of service and obedience to God the Father.

Jesus shows how, as a human, he can “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Mt 5:48) and invites us to model ourselves after him and become masters of living itself.

In conforming ourselves to his person I may perfect, not a skill, but my very life.

As we proceed toward Great and Holy Week, we unite our Great Fast sacrifices to that of Jesus and we learn, we progress in, self-mastery. This progression leads to the freedom of the children of God, (Gal 5:1) not slavery.  

Not journeying alone, we are supported by other Christians and are encouraged by the witness of the martyrs like Blessed Theodore Romzha. These courageous Christians who truly mastered life, accepting even death in their pursuit, are given to us to help us know our role in our mastering of life.

Our Great Fast discipline of fasting, prayer and almsgiving will indeed lead to a self-mastery because in this way we become icons of God the master.

Let us proceed in the footsteps of Christ, in the footsteps of Blessed Theodore, with confidence and hope in the resurrection. With Christ we shall realize true freedom.

Bishop John Kudrick is the bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma Ohio.

www.parma.org


Teachings of Christ

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

Theophany

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge sing praise to You: * "You have come, and You have appeared, O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Random Proverb

"Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live." (Proverbs 4:4 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Do we forgive our neighbors their trespasses? God also forgives us in His mercy. Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbors, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness, then, of your sins or unforgiveness, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself, man. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how terrible it is.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven