Yesterday I reminded you to contact your Spiritual Father, your coach for Great Lent. Every team has players and coaches which we have already spoken about. You are the team players and your spiritual father is your coach. Every team that is planning on success needs more than just players and coaches. It needs practice time with equipment and playbooks. It may be something that we don’t spend a great deal of time speaking about, but your Great Lenten Journey also has equipment and more than one playbook.
As far as equipment goes, you are probably familiar with your icon corner at home and your candles, but have you thought about what other tools and equipment the Church offers you during your Great Lenten Journey? Or course all the tools are available year-round, but during Great Lent our attention is more keenly attuned to them.
Your prayer rope might be one of the valuable pieces of equipment the team has for success. Used during the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner) as a focus point, your prayer rope should be with you at all times. You don’t have to wear it on your wrist, but you should keep it accessible especially during Great Lent. At any time you feel like you are losing your focus, take our your prayer rope and say a few (one or two times through) Jesus Prayers, and it will be easier to get back on track. Of course, I’m not talking about focus on secular tasks at work, but your spiritual tasks. I personally have found that if I use my prayer rope during group meetings, I find myself more able to remain silent rather than always feeling like I need to add something to the conversation. My prayer rope is like my life-line when I find my mind wandering away from Godly ideas.
Do you have an incense burner as part of your home altar? Burning incense is an ancient practice not unique to Christianity, but many think it to be so ancient we don’t need it today. In the Church we offer incense to God as a sacrifice during Church services. We pray, “Let my prayer arise as incense before You, and the lifting of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” As the incense rises to the heavens, it is received by God, but it should also be part of our home prayer. We should bless our house regularly with incense, asking God to dwell with us in our home. There is another slightly more practical but equally valuable use for incense in our home. When we smell the incense, it helps us to focus on God. It is how we bring the Church into our home. If you haven’t used your incense lately in your home, use it. If you don’t have any, get some at your parish bookstore.
Every team needs a playbook. Our team has many valuable playbooks, not the least of which is the Holy Scriptures. During Great Lent, the lectionary (that’s a fancy word for list of the readings for each day) includes readings from the Old Testament during the week. We read from Genesis, Isaiah, and Proverbs each weekday during Great Lent. Don’t feel like you need to limit your playbook to only the Holy Scriptures. Many of the Church Fathers and Mothers have written very valuable books to assist us in our Great Lenten Journey. Some have daily meditations, while others are deeply profound treatises on the spiritual struggles of the Christian life. When you go to the bookstore to pick up some incense, look around for a good book to read during Great Lent.
So now you know about the player, coaches, equipment and playbook. The only thing missing in practice time. Check our your local parish calendar for the special service during Great Lent. One of my favorites is the Great Compline scheduled in the evening after work. Give it a try. I think you’ll like it.