Every year starts off the same way in every fitness center and gym. January 1st ushers in the crowds and their New Year Resolutions. Regular gym attendees find themselves in a sea of new faces and frustrations as their favorite machine has been taken by someone who hasn’t been there since last January. Employees warn of this in advance, but there are always a few who are frustrated. Why won’t people stay the rest of the year? Within two weeks, most gyms return to their normal regular patrons with a few new faces sticking it out for the long haul. Their lives have been changed by their workout experience.
Now let me replace a few words...
Every Holy Week starts off the same way in every Orthodox Church. Palm Sunday ushers in the crowds and their conscience. Regular Church attendees find themselves in a sea of new faces and frustrations as their pew has been taken by someone who hasn’t been there since last Holy Week. The Priest warns of this in advance, but there are always a few who are frustrated. Why don’t people care enough to stay the rest of the year? By the Sunday of Thomas, most Churches return to their normal regular attendance with a few new faces sticking it out for the long haul. Their lives have been changed by their Holy Week experience.
While the setting and challenges might be different between the gym and the Church, the truth is there is much in common. The Orthodox Way of Life is a life of discipline and commitment to overcoming the temptations that lead us astray, just as joining the fitness center. In the gym you will find fitness trainers who understand this challenge, just like your local Priest understands your spiritual challenge. Unfortunately, just like January in a gym, the week after Pascha in the Orthodox Church people give up their new challenges and return to their old way of life.
In many cases, and I speak from years of experience, overcoming weight issues can take years to conquer. The same is true with our spiritual battles. Being addicted to food can be a real problem as the daily challenges of eating healthy are often overcome by the temptations to gorge on candy and potato chips. Food addicts wake up every morning genuinely not wanting to overeat, but sadly by noon many have lost the battle for another day. If we are honest we are each addicted to sin. We wake up every morning not wanting to sin, but sadly by noon (if not earlier) we have already sinned.
So today I throw the gauntlet.....Holy Week is over! Pascha has arrived! It’s January in the gym and the Church is still filled with the smell of incense from the Resurrection Liturgy. Don’t fade away too quickly. But if you do, you can always come back and try again. You won’t have to wait until Holy Week!
Christ is Risen!