Monday, March 21, 2016

A New Week; A not-so-new Journey

As we begin the second week of Great Lent, the readings from the Old Testament continue with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, something the Church just one week ago highlighted on Forgiveness Sunday. Here is the blog I wrote about Forgiveness Sunday and the importance of seeking forgiveness during Great Lent. If you haven’t been to confession in a while, this would be a good time to make an appointment with your spiritual father for Holy Confession.

Today Readings from Genesis 3:21-4:7 -  And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.  Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever"- therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.  Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD."  And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.  In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.  The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."
As our readings continue in Genesis, I invite you first to consider the journey you are on this year. Have you sinned? We all have. It is because of sin that humanity now must struggle to stay alive outside the Garden. Do you struggle to keep the fast? We all struggle. It will be the struggle that helps you see your sin and urges you to repentance.

Secondly, I invite you to consider your fasting as an offering to God. Is your offering out of love or obligation? Cain made an offering to God out of obligation, while his brother Abel offered the best he had to God out of love. The Lord accepted the offering of Abel rather than Cain, which cause great anger in Cain. If you are fasting out of obligation, without love for God, then as the Lord warned Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

This week, you are bound to encounter more emotion in regard to the fast. You will begin to ask yourself why those around you are not fasting, but they don’t seem any less blessed AND they get to enjoy their steak sandwich. You may find yourself getting angry that YOU are being obedient and YOU should be rewarded. Why are YOU struggling? Is it worth it? That will be the moment you need to re-read our Genesis lesson today, and pray you don’t fall victim to the anger as did Cain. Ask the Lord to take away your anger, and replace it with His peace. Fortunate for you, you are on the same journey as millions of other Orthodox Christians this year, and hundreds of millions over the centuries.

Don’t give up! It is only a new week; it is a not-so-new journey.

Have a blessed Lent,

Father Athanasios

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