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Your grace has shone forth, O Lord, it has shone forth and given light to our souls.
Hymn of Vespers – Sunday of Forgiveness                                                                                   

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we begin this sacred journey through Holy and Great Lent, through a time of earnest prayer and sincere reflection, we are guided by the presence of our Lord and the hymns and prayers of this season to experience the power of God’s grace.  In preparation for this time, we have witnessed His grace in the forgiveness of the publican.  We have seen the depth of His love in the father’s loving embrace of the prodigal son.  We have heard the words of our Lord concerning the Last Judgement, when He will come in His glory and welcome into the kingdom His servants who have shown mercy to those in need.

In the days and weeks that will come, our worship and prayers will have a somber and reflective tone.  We will be called to examine our lives, to purify ourselves through fasting, and to follow the way of the Cross.  We will be asked to consider the condition of our souls and affirm our need for God and His great mercy.  As we hear on the eve of Great Lent, and we will experience in this journey, our needs will be met by His abundant grace: “Your grace has shone forth, O Lord, it has shone forth and given light to our souls.  Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the season of repentance.  Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light….”

Our true repentance will be blessed with God’s forgiveness in grace.  Our return to Him in hope will be met with His compassionate embrace.  Our service in His name will lead us to our spiritual inheritance of life in His glorious presence.  At the beginning of Lent, we can affirm that our path to abundant joy and celebration will be illuminated by the light of His grace.

With this light that shines in our hearts we will also offer a witness through our observance of Lent and through our lives.  As we know and experience God’s grace, others will see His offering of forgiveness. They will see the power of grace to transform life and bring healing and restoration.  They will find salvation in Christ as the grace of God works in and through us to show all His redeeming love.

May the blessings of God’s grace be with you during this holy season as we gather in His presence.  As His great love embraces you, may your hope and faith be strengthened for the journey to Cross and to the light and life we have in the Risen Christ.

With paternal love in Him,

Archbishop of America