Great Lent can be a lonely time, especially for those who are not fortunate enough to live in an Orthodox Community like “the old country” in Europe. In traditional Orthodox countries, Great Lent comes a bit easier, since most of the people around you are sharing in the struggle together as a community. The same cannot be said for those of us in America, unless maybe Alaska where Orthodox Christianity is a majority religion. We need help!
In today’s reading from Genesis 7.1-5, “The Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark.” In his obedience to God, Noah saved every kind of life on the face of the earth from destruction. In the same way, Christ call us into His Church for protection. Remaining outside the Ark meant certain death but remaining outside the Church is worse than death.
When tragedy occurs, it is natural for us to band together to help each other heal, but why wait for tragedy? Much like the story of the healing of the paralytic found in Mark 2.1-12, many of our friends and family members, our brothers and sisters, are also paralyzed. It is up to us to reach out and help them before tragedy. No amount of fasting or prostrations will make a difference if we leave those who need God outside the Church. We must bring them to the Church so they can experience the love and grace of God. Keep the fast! Read your prayers! Come to Church.
Although they are sold in the jewelry department in almost every department store, they aren’t jewelry, at least they shouldn’t be. Today I’m talking about wearing your prayer rope and your cross in public. As an Orthodox Christian, we are invited to not hide our faith, but does that mean we should wear our cross and prayer rope in such a way that others see them, and ask about them?
Here we are on the Second Sunday of Great Lent, and after spending weeks reminding us during the Triodion about our personal spiritual journey, and after reminding us of the truth of the Church last week on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, today the Church makes a bold statement. Salvation is a group effort.
There is what I call an old Orthodox Christian myth about Pascha that today is the perfect day to explain. Many people believe that since Orthodox Pascha is normally after Western Easter that it is due to the date of the Jewish Passover. It seems like every year I read hundreds of posts claiming that we cannot celebrate Pascha until after the Jewish Passover. This is not true, and this year is as good a year as any to better understand why.
Something nobody ever considers is serving other publicly as Christians. In fact, most Christian invoke the quote from Christ, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6.3) How can I possible suggest serving others publicly? Doesn’t this go directly against Christ?
The answer depends upon your intention. It always depends upon your intention. I’m sure you remember the importance of context when we read the scriptures. This verse is the answer Christ gives to avoid hypocrisy. Here is the entire passage.
Because of the penitent nature of Great Lent, when there is a feast day such as the feast of St George, the feast is transferred (delayed) to a day after Pascha. It is believed that such feasts are too joyous to celebrate during such a somber period. It is believed even the Feast of Transfiguration (believed historically to have taken place 40 days before Pascha) is transferred to August. One feast, though, holds strong in March.
Today’s topic of ‘going public’ with our Orthodoxy is not so simple. Christ Himself said, “But when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6.6) How then can I suggest that we pray in public when Christ tells us to pray in secret?
Fasting in Public
When it comes to fasting, especially during Great Lent, going public is definitely NOT recommended. In fact, it is founded upon in the Church. “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.” (Matthew 6.17) During Great Lent, our faces should shine they are so clean. But there is something we CAN bring public during Great Lent, and it includes fasting.