Christ is among us!
Unfortunately, due to foreboding weather these last few days, we were not able to meet either Friday evening or Sunday, Cheese-Fare and Forgiveness Sunday. Eastern Catholics place great importance on both the Divine Liturgy and the communal life; therefore such cancellations make it most difficult to experience the true beauty and richness of the Antiochian expression of the one, holy and Catholic Faith. Nevertheless, God always provides when such phenomena occur that remain outside our will to do otherwise. Without the opportunity to have met in person the last few days, as your spiritual father, I took to writing a few reflections to begin the journey of Great Lent.
For many members of the DFW Outreach, this will be our first Great and Holy Season of Lent. I say our because it will be my first one as well. We will learn and experience together this unique pilgrimage of metanoia – conversion. This pastoral message is written therefore to us who are beginners on the way.
Keep the big picture in your mind’s eye! The focus is metanoia, changing the way you face in your life, reorienting the way you see. Sin simply stated is a decision to stop looking at the face of Christ! The three ascetical practices emphasized during Great Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Remember: asceticism means training or discipline. The objective of the three practices is to reorient us.
The two snares for the human person are to become either overly communal or overly personal, either practice is a heresy. Christianity keeps in balance the communal and personal. Note the word personal versus private. In the Christian Faith, there is no place for the private! The Apostolic Faith is communal by nature. At baptism, you and I were joined to the Body of Christ, participants in the Life of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, joined to a Holy People, a Holy Kingdom, and a Holy Nation. The Apostolic Christian Faith has no place for either privatism or individualism; it is never a me and God relationship. Hence the three ascetical practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving must have both a communal and personal dimension.
We have addressed several times the practice of fasting. With the Body of Christ, we do not eat meat, dairy products, and eggs. Nevertheless, each person will also take on his or her own personal fast: other foods, entertainment, technology, etc.
This letter will focus on the ascetical practice of prayer. To be healthy prayer must incorporate both a personal and communal dimension.
The first critical component is communal prayer. Sunday Divine Liturgy is the preeminent day of communal prayer. It is the indispensable day and yet is the bare minimum. For those with a lived-faith, other regular times of communal prayer are demanded. During Great Lent, every Outreach member is exhorted to both Great Compline on Tuesdays at 7 and the pre-sanctified Liturgy on Thursday at 7. Should other obligations prevent you, then please make every effort to attend one celebration. Combined with the Divine Liturgy these other two liturgies will aid, support, and fortify one’s interior life and maturation in the ongoing transformation of divinization. They are the key means to prepare for Pascha!
The second critical component is personal prayer. Most of us do not know the Scriptures well, let alone find those most sacred pages to be the source of prayer, instruction, and meditation. This Season of Great Lent, take the Word of God as your focus for personal prayer. To begin, reread the Epistle and Gospel assigned for Cheese-Fare/Forgiveness Sunday: Epistle Roman 13: 11-14; 14:1-4 and the Gospel Mt 6:14-21. Tomorrow, February 15, called Clean Monday, the Melkite Church has the practice of reading most of Genesis, Isaiah, and Proverbs during the Season of Great Lent. Great Lent is a return to the Old Testament – the time before Christ. It is a time of metanoia and expectation. While we live in the time after Christ, we fall away from Him, which is a lapse into the “old” time. Hence, with the Church, we are on a constant journey toward the Kingdom of God fulfilled. To accompany you and me on this journey toward the Kingdom fulfilled, the Church will read nearly the entire books of Genesis, Isaiah, and Proverbs.
Genesis recounts the events of Creation, the Fall, and finally the promise and beginning of salvation through God’s covenant and His chosen people. Genesis reveals God as Creator, Judge and Savior, and the Christian understanding of the human person as created in the “image and likeness” of God; and, yet while falling away from God, the human person remains the object of His divine love, care, and salvation. The Genesis account announces the mystery of the Church through the images and types of the Old Testament.
The Book of the Prophet Isaiah is the greatest of all the prophets. Read throughout Great Lent, Isaiah reveals the mystery of salvation accomplished through the sufferings and sacrifice of Christ.
The Book of Proverbs is the epitome of the ethical teachings of the Old Testament, of the moral law and wisdom. Without them, the human person cannot understand his or her alienation from God, and, therefore remains unable to hear the good news of forgiveness.
The DFW Melkite Calendar provides the daily readings from Genesis, Isaiah, and Proverbs.
The other book of inestimable value for prayer and meditation throughout Great Lent is the Book of Psalms.
The Bible is not a collection of dogmatic “propositions” to be accepted and memorized once for all, but the living voice of God speaking to us again and again, taking you and me always deeper into the inexhaustible riches of His Wisdom and Love. 
Praying that you and your loved ones have a most blessed Great and Holy Season of Lent.
I, a sinner, ask for your forgiveness and prayers,
Father Marc Mallick
 These reflections on the word of God were taken from Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmememann.