As we get closer and closer to Pascha, the Church recalls the story of the man who brought his son to Jesus to be healed because nobody else could help him. Even the disciples could not help him. He had nowhere else to go so he came to Jesus, “Teacher, I brought you my son who has a mute spirit.” (Mark 9.17) The father explained everything, how the demon would torture his son, how his son would so often come very close to death, and even how the disciples could not cast out the demon.
Ever since the creation of time, the Lord has given us the Sabbath as a respite in our physical and spiritual journey. In the Old Testament, even lands and animals were given a sabbath rest from their masters, knowing that everything produces better with a little rest. Unfortunately, with our 24-hour/7-day a week life, we rarely rest on the Sabbath. During Great Lent, there is a special sort of rest on the Sabbath, but if you’re not fully fasting, you would never realize it.
Take Up Your Cross in Celebrations
Today is the Feast of Saint Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Mytilene, but the Church celebrating. Their feast day instead will take place on Holy and Bright Tuesday, this year May 4, 2021. The same is the case for the Feast of St George which is ‘actually’ April 23rd but will instead take place on Holy and Bright Monday, this year May 3, 3021. The celebrations for these great Saints are being delayed.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26.39) With these words, Christ teaches us how to take up our cross in prayer. The Cross was not required, it was chosen by God, and that is how we should approach prayer.
Take Up Your Cross in Politics
It is no secret that our society is in the midst of incredible political turmoil, but today’s post is NOT about taking sides in politics. Quite the opposite actually. As you know, I do my best to remain outside of politics unless such topics have a direct impact on the Orthodox Church. As part of our Daily Lenten Journey, I want to challenge you to take up your cross in politics, but I doubt it is in the way you might imagine.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, and when it comes to family dynamics, especially with the added pressure of Great Lent, all too often more arguments take place at home than any other place. It isn’t that we don’t love our family, or that we love them less than the strangers we meet on the street. It is just that we tend to let our guard down with our family, and too often are not “on our best behavior” leaving our families a place of stress rather than comfort.
Halfway through Great Lent the Church reminds us of Christ’s invitation to deny ourselves, takes up our cross and follow Him into heaven. The Christian life is a difficult burden for us to bear, but so long as we are focused on our own agenda, we will never accept to take up our cross. When we fast, we learn to control ourselves so that we will accept the struggle of the cross, but we cannot learn to control ourselves unless we allow the Church the guide us.
While the Holy Cross is still fresh in our minds from yesterday’s glorious processions in every Orthodox Church throughout the world, I thought I would take the opportunity this week to discuss different ways we could take up our cross in our life, if we are wanting to follow Christ into heaven. Today I want you to consider how and when you can take up your cross at work.
You can’t escape the topic of fasting during Great Lent. In fact, the topic can be quite stressful for many people in the Church. The conflict is understandable since everyone fasts in a different way during Great Lent, and some choose not to fast at all. From the outside looking in, it can seem as if the Church teachings are being either ignored all together, or at the very least altered to our individual desires. There must be some reason the Church emphasises fasting so much during Great Lent.
As I was leaving my friend’s house once years ago, he said to me, “If something happens on the road between here and the halfway point, call me and I’ll come get you. Once you get halfway, call someone from home.” It sounded strange to me until he explained it. Fortunately, nothing happened, and I returned home with no complications.