Shaped by a life of service to Christ’s Church, Fr. Christopher has dedicated himself to using all the tools God has placed at his disposal to spread the light of Orthodoxy across America. As Founding Father and host of the Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) and the “Come Receive The Light” national Orthodox Christian radio program, he shepherds a dynamic and rapidly expanding ministry bringing joy, hope, and salvation in Jesus Christ to millions of listeners on Internet and land-based radio around the world in more than 130 countries. Fr. Christopher lives in Brookline, MA and is the President of Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
“It is the aim of the holy Fathers, through bringing to mind that fearful day, to rouse us from the slumber of carelessness unto the work of virtue, and to move us to love and compassion for our brethren. Besides this, even as on the coming Sunday of Cheese-fare we commemorate Adam’s exile from the Paradise of delight — which exile is the beginning of life as we know it now — it is clear that today’s is reckoned the last of all feasts, because on the last day of judgment, truly, everything of this world will come to an end.
Today is called “Meat-Fare” because during the week following it a limited fasting-abstention from meat is prescribed by the Church. This prescription is to be understood in the light of what has been said above the meaning preparation. The Church begins now to “adjust” us to the great effort which she will expect from us seven days later. She gradually takes us into that effort-knowing our frailty, foreseeing our spiritual weakness.
On the eve of that day (Meat-Fare Saturday), the Church invites us to a universal commemoration of all those who have “fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection and life eternal.” This is indeed the Church’s great day of prayer for her departed members. To understand the meaning of this connection between Lent and the prayer for the dead, one must remember that Christianity is the religion of love. Christ left with his disciples not a doctrine of individual salvation but a new commandment “that they love one another,” and He added: “By this shall all know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is thus the foundation, the very life of the Church which is, in the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the “unity of faith and love.” Sin is always absence of love, and therefore separation, isolation, war of all against all. The new life given by Christ and conveyed to us by the Church is, first of all , a life of reconciliation, of “gathering into oneness of those who were dispersed,” the restoration of love broken by sin. But how can we begin our return to God and our reconciliation with Him if in ourselves we do not return to the unique new commandment of love? Praying for the dead is an essential expression of the Church as love. We ask God to remember those whom we remember and we remember them because we love them. Praying for them we meet them in Christ who is Love and who, because He is Love, overcomes death which is the ultimate victory of separation and lovelessness. In Christ there is no difference between living and dead because all are alive in Him. He is the Life and that Life is the light of man. Loving Christ, we love all those who are in Him; loving those who are in Him, we love Christ: this is the law of the Church and the obvious rationale for her of prayer for the dead. It is truly our love in Christ that keeps them alive because it keeps them “in Christ” and how wrong, how hopelessly wrong for the dead to a juridical doctrine of “merits” and “compensation” or simply reject it as useless. The great Vigil for the Dead of Meatfare Saturday serves as a pattern for all other commemorations of the departed and it is repeated on the second, third and fourth Saturdays of Lent.