Thursday, April 4, 2013

I need to work on my inner peace…

The fast is beginning to take its toll on me I think. I’m not going hungry really; it’s just that I’m already fed up with beans. It seems to happen earlier and earlier every year. Bean this, bean that, beans, beans, beans. I actually like beans, and my wife fixes them really well so they’re always tasty. But we’re almost three weeks into Great Lent (almost four weeks without meat) and I’m getting bored with my food. But maybe that’s the point…

Being bored with my food is helping me realize that food doesn’t have to be fancy and elaborate. It is, after all, just to nourish the body. And with the reserves I have…..well, let’s just say I can stand a bit less nourishment these days. So fasting is taking its toll on my preoccupation with food and I’m beginning to feel the burden of the Fast…from the blessing point of view.

So it can’t be a coincidence that the Church places the Holy Cross in our midst for the Third Sunday of Lent. By now, ANYONE who is fasting must be feeling the burden of the fast, and the Church brings us a firm reminder that the way to Christ is the way of the cross.

I think the real toll I’m beginning to feel is when I realize how the world has abandoned any level of self discipline. Everywhere I turn my attention it seems, even other Church marquees, I’m faced with the message of selfish spirituality. Last week one sign read, “If God isn’t answering, He may still be listening,” as if to suggest… “Don’t worry; you’ll eventually get what you want from God. He just wants you to beg for a little while more.” I can’t accept that.

Our society has become so self oriented that Great Lent is being lost by even the most faithful Greek Orthodox Christians. The Divine Services of the Church during Great Lent (Great Compline, Presanctified Liturgy, Great Vespers, Orthros, Salutations to the Theotokos) are attended by fewer and fewer faithful each year. Eventually Churches will have only the Priest and Chanter at these most holy services.

The burden I feel during these days isn’t so much my menu options, but with those who have seemingly rejected the Church’s way of life. I don’t complain because I feel somehow “why do I have to be the only one in Church?” but because I wish people could experience the beauty and peace these services have to offer. I don’t mind being alone, for my sake, since I get the benefit of the peace and quiet of a still Church.

Last night, during our Introduction to Orthodoxy class, a woman who will be baptized this year said, “I’m really looking forward to celebrating Easter HERE [her emphasis] with you all.” For her, Easter HAD BEEN egg hunts and family dinner. She is looking forward to REAL [again her emphasis] emphasis on the Feast. It’s moments like last night where I get refreshed during these Lenten struggles as the Lord brings new believers who embrace His way of life. I wonder if St Paul had the same emotions when he said,

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternal blessed God. (Romans 9.1-5)

I MUST be content with the mercy of God. If He doesn’t force others to embrace Him, why should I try? By way of confession, I must admit I do try to “strongly” convince others to follow Him more closely (at least from my vantage point) and be more dedicated to the Church. If Lent is going to teach me anything, it is that I need to understand that if God is willing to allow people to reject Him, I have to be more at peace with the reality of our society’s rejection of God. Maybe this is what St Seraphim of Sarov meant when he said, “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved.” I need to work on my inner peace…

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