Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Have we learned anything about ourselves yet?

Sunday evening Orthodox Christians celebrated the first of three Bridegroom Matins. There are actually four of these services, but most Orthodox Churches substitute the Bridegroom Matins for Holy Wednesday evening (that’s tonight) with the Mystery (Sacrament) of Healing Oil (Holy Unction) so I figured I would pause at this point with a Holy Week reflection by asking the question: “Have we learned anything about ourselves yet?”

The Church has established certain themes for each evening during Holy Week.

    Icon of the Bridegroom (Florence, SC)
    Sunday Evening (Matins for Holy Monday Morning) – The Church reflects upon the withered fig tree
  • Monday Evening (Matins for Holy Tuesday Morning) – The Church reflects upon the parable of the ten virgins
  • Tuesday Evening (Matins for Holy Wednesday Morning) – The Church reflects upon the anointing of Jesus by the harlot juxtaposed with the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.
  • Wednesday Evening (Matins for Holy Thursday Morning) – The Church reflects upon the Mystical Supper (commonly called the Last Supper) and the institution of the Eucharist

Glancing back on these themes a pattern, or better yet a trajectory, becomes obvious. We are encouraged by the Church to reflect upon our spiritual condition as it relates to:

  1. Whether or not our spiritual life is bearing fruit (thus the warning of the withered fig tree)
  2. Whether or not we are awaiting the return of Christ in a state of readiness (thus the parable of the virgins)
  3. Whether or not we are repenting in humility to the Lord rather than betraying the Lord with a self-oriented spirituality and greed (thus the warning of Judas)

If we take seriously our journey through Holy Week, and going all the way back to the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee at the beginning of Pre-Lent, if we have not learned something about ourselves, we have failed to take full advantage of the “reason for the season”, namely repentance and salvation. If we rather glance back at the past few nights (if even we were in Church) or the past 7 weeks and discover we are not somehow different, we have failed to take advantage of the Great Lenten journey and we run the risk of not bearing fruit (there’s that fig tree warning again!) and being shut out of the Kingdom.

It is true that Jesus has not come to judge the world but to save it, but that salvation comes with an expectation that we are somehow engaged in the process. It was just a few weeks ago that we heard Jesus say, “IF anyone desires to come after Me….” IF is a key word in understand the Passion of Christ. If we sit back and await the coming of the Lord considering that we are “totally ready and prepared” for Him, (there’s that foolish virgin warning again!) we will be shut out of the Kingdom.

If we are one of the many that want “Church on OUR terms” with the programs WE WANT and the services WE WANT and WHEN WE want them, (there’s that self-oriented spirituality of Judas warning again!) we will miss the opportunity to repent in total humility in front of our Lord, and be shut out of the Kingdom.

With just a few more days of Holy Week, there is still time to engage in the journey and bring your life around and face it toward the Lord Jesus Christ. There is still time to repent in humility to your local Orthodox Priest, who has been granted authority by Christ and the Church to forgive sins. There is still time to bear the spiritual fruit of prayer and fasting and be welcomed into the Kingdom as the wise virgins…

Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and blessed is the servant, whom He shall find vigilant; and unworthy is he, whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, that you will not be overcome by sleep, lest you be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. Wherefore, rouse yourself, crying out: Holy, Holy, Holy are You our God, through the power of Your Cross save us."

May the remainder of Holy Week be blessed….

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