If anyone is devout and loves God,
let him commence this radiant fast with joy!
If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing,
enter into the school of repentance.
We who have wallowed long in sin,
let us now begin our return.
If anyone has strayed from the first hour,
let him today repent with zeal.
If anyone has sinned from the third hour,
let him with gratitude embrace the fast.
If anyone has fled God from the sixth hour,
let him have no misgivings about his prompt return;
because he shall in nowise be turned away therefore.
If anyone has indulged the works of the flesh since the ninth hour,
let him draw near, fearing God alone and trusting in His mercy.
And if anyone has turned away only at the eleventh hour,
let him also not hesitate to turn back to God with haste.
For the Lord, who is longsuffering and full of compassion and mercy,
will accept the last even as the first.
He restores him who repents at the first hour,
as He does him who turns back at the eleventh.
He shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first;
To the one He gives, and upon the other He bestows gifts.
He both accepts the confession, and welcomes the intention,
and honors the contrite heart and rejoices in the repentance.
Wherefore, enter all of you into the holiness of your Lord;
Offer your repentance, both the last, and likewise the first.
You rich and poor together, repent,
for today we stand outside the closed gates of paradise.
You sober and you heedless, prostrate yourselves before your King!
Return to the Lord today, both you who have sinned with knowledge
and those who have done so in ignorance.
Your pantries are full; empty them to the hungry.
The belly enslaves us; let no one be dominated thereby.
Enter all of you into the Great Fast;
Stripped of heavenly wealth by sin,
let us all draw near to God’s rich loving-kindness!
Let no one despair in his sinfulness, for the Bridegroom comes
in the midst of the night.
Weep all of you for your iniquities,
and draw near to the life-giving Cross of our Lord.
Let no one put confidence in the flesh,
for the Devil has deceived us all thereby,
and therewith enslaves us to sin.
By turning from God, we are made captives.
We have called good evil and evil good,
and put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry out:
Woe to those who put darkness for light, and light for darkness!
We are embittered, for we are banned from Eden.
We are embittered, for it is we who have mocked God.
We are embittered, for now we shall surely die.
We are embittered, for we have succumbed to the Serpent.
We are embittered, for we are bound by the chains of sin.
We partook of a fruit, and met the Deceiver.
We were entrusted with paradise, but we chose hell.
Our eyes were opened to see the nakedness of our sin.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver us!
O Lord, make haste to help us!
This is the acceptable time, let us repent!
This is the day of salvation, let us crucify the passions!
The end is at hand and destruction hangs over us!
The end draws near, let us come again to our senses!
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, what first-fruit shall we offer?
Let us delay not, lest we remain dead in the grave, sold under sin!
For God desires not the death of the sinner,
but that he should turn from his wickedness and live!
So, let us choose life, and live, for the mercy of God endures forever!
To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.
Fr. John Parker is the Chair of the Dept. of Evangelization for the Orthodox Church in America. He wrote this homily to begin Lent based on the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom.