Preparation Sunday

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6)

The gospel reading of the Preparation Sunday is from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:1-18), which revolves around the joyful journey of  worship. Our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us that our worship, whether through prayer, fasting, or alms giving, is directed towards God and not to impress people, as hypocrites do. God is our Heavenly Father, Who sees what is done in secret and rewards us openly. When He talks about fasting, our Lord exhorts us during fasting not to have a sad countenance, but a cheerful and happy face, “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting… But you, when you fast, anoint you head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to you Father Who is in the secret place; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matt. 6:16-18).

The Point of Departure of the Journey. The Church declares to us that your room is the point of departure of the journey of Lent. If it does not start in your room, then the journey of our fast has deviated from its true course. The Church starts the fast by directing us to go into our rooms. This means that the fast is not only related to the flesh, but it is related more to the Spirit and to the Kingdom of God. The week of preparation is the week of the going into our rooms.

Close your Door. The Journey starts after closing   the door–the door that looks at the world. Then there opens before us another door that faces heaven, “Our Father who art in heaven,” and “I looked, and, behold door was opened in heaven” [Rev. 4:1].

“Fasting is not a fetter or a prison to the sense but a soaring with them without hindrance towards contemplation of God” (Life of Prayer, p. 454).

Pray to Your Father. The Church has set a standard to the level of faith of the catechumens before they are allowed to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. The standard is that the Church continues teaching the catechumens about the Lord’s Prayer, which starts with “our Father …”   and at the moment they perceive and comprehend the paternity of God to them, they are entitled to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.

Your Father Who Sees in Secret. This is the secret of the prayer in your room which the Church perceived and so allotted to it the deepest of prayers like the prayer of the wise virgins awaiting the coming of the bridegroom, and the prayer of the fallen woman at the feet of the Lord Jesus where in our room we discover our sins … and we hold the feet of the Lord to free our feet from the prodigal road, and we taste the love of God, and learn contrition, and thus the goal of the journey of our fast becomes the withdrawal of the soul into itself (in secret) where the Lord purifies it with His blood and dedicates her a temple for Him and adorns her with His talents so that she may participate with the wise virgins in the meeting of the Bridegroom.

Since the journey is with the soul and Christ, it is an invisible relationship that begins in the chamber. So, fasting is accompanied by a reduction in talking and visits and by concentrating on spiritual readings and attending the Divine Liturgy.

Our Heavenly Father is calling you to a holy participation with Him in secret, through which you may start your fast, your prayers, and your almsgiving. So beware of negligence.1

Practice; practice in the week of preparation is the prayer in our rooms and the worship in secret which will continue with us all through and after the period of fasting.

Taken from: Fr. Bishoy Kamel, the Lectionary during the Lent (Alexandria, Egypt: St.

George Coptic Orthodox Church, 1974).