The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (5.8–19) read on the third Sunday of November contains some exhortations for the beginning of the Nativity Lent.
St. Paul says to the Ephesians: “Walk as children of light! Finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (5.9–10). This must be our concern, to please the Lord. This ought to be the everyday question of our lives: “Did I please You today, Lord, with something at least?” Did I have that intention? Did I have that desire? We should not be completely caught up in all kinds of cares and worries, which go away, dissipate as if they never existed, as we can clearly see in our times.
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (5.11). Let us expose the evil within ourselves. We may not be able to purge passions, wickedness, unsightliness, but at least let us say to God, “Lord, I do not want them!” And even hate them. As the psalm says, “I hated them with perfect hatred” (Ps 138.22). The passions, the evil in me.
This is the first movement of man’s trying to cleanse himself. And the Holy Fathers say that what the soul does not want, does not last long in us. So if I draw the line and assert that I do not want this, I do not want to be bad, I do not want to be greedy, I do not want to be a fornicator or ensnared in any other passion, I say to the Lord: “I do not want it, Lord! I cannot help being like that now, this is the state I am in, but at least I do not want it.” And if I express myself thus, the Holy Fathers say that it does not take long to become free. But I must place myself as such and “expose them,” those deeds of darkness in me, in you, in each of us. Let us expose them openly. I know that I am entrapped, but I delimit myself from them—I do not want them.
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (5.15–16).
This is not heaven but the preparation for the afterlife. We are merely passing through, so let us redeem the moment spent here for the afterlife because that is our goal. Our work here is to rid ourselves of passions and to grow in love. This is how we will live in the afterlife: in and through love.
“Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (5.19). This is the normal state of a Christian. Singing and making melody in his heart; praising the Lord. Our abbot from Putna told us that when he was a seminarian, he went to a convent. “Having nothing better to do, I asked an elderly nun: ‘How are you, mother? Is the heart still singing?’ The nun, advanced in age and divinely gifted, answered so humbly: ‘It sings, sonny, for the heart is foolish and doesn’t know much.’” Her heart did not know anything but to praise and sing to the Lord. That is the Christian state—the state in which our heart praises and sings to the Lord.
And the Apostle concludes: “Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving tanks always for all the things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5.19).