During our Great Lenten Journey, nothing is more obvious than the quiet and humble atmosphere of the Church during the Lenten Services. As I mentioned in The Rhythm of Great Lent the physical atmosphere is an important detail during Great Lent. It isn’t all about candles and incense. That would limit the journey to solely external issues. It would ignore the importance of quiet and humble prayer that fills the dark and incense filled Church.
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.
Yesterday I mentioned some members of your team during Great Lent. The success of any team depends upon everyone working in agreement to the different roles of the team. If at any time, team members ignore their respective roles, or the roles of other members of the team, success is not likely. The same holds true for your Great Lenten team. Do you have a coach?
Welcome to week three of your Great Lenten Journey. I really should say OUR Great Lenten Journey since as Orthodox we believe that the Church is a communal experience. We have been baptized into Christ, and therefore each other. As Saint Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12.26) So we are all experiencing Great Lent together with all its ups and downs, all its struggles and successes.
On the Second Sunday of Great Lent, the Church brings our attention to a miracle and lesson for our soul. In Mark 2.1-12, we hear about the healing of the Paralytic who was brought by four friends to see Jesus. Since the house was filled past the front door, they cut a hole in the roof and lowered the man down to see Jesus. The Gospel tells us when Jesus saw their faith, he healed the man. Just as these four men, it is our responsibility to bring others to Christ, so they can hear Him and see Him. Then they can be healed.
We spend much our time during Great Lent focusing on fasting and the extra prayers and Church services. We do all this in order to grow closer to Jesus Christ, but there is another part of our Great Lenten opportunity offers for our soul. In the Gospel lesson today, we hear about a man who was brought by his four friends to see Jesus. Because this man had four friends who loved him enough to bring him to Jesus, he was healed of his sickness and his sins were forgiven. If these four men had not loved their friend enough, he might still be paralyzed.
As I mentioned this week in “Do you pray?” I urged that we should not look at prayer as a shopping list. I urged that we should leave room for God’s will in our prayers, but what exactly is God’s will? In the blog I reminded you that when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He taught them the Lord’s Prayer. A large part of the Lord’s Prayer is “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But what is God’s will?
If you have been a fan of Be Transfigured Ministries for a while, then you know how much I dislike the term “sacrifice” when it is used in terms of our Great Lenten Journey. The word, which has Latin roots, has the meaning of “to be made or to become holy” or we could say “to be sanctified.” It isn’t about self-abuse or torture. It doesn’t even require death. Remember the ancient Jews also sacrificed wheat and oil and wine to God in the Temple, not just turtle doves and calves.
Yesterday I suggested that fasting should be different if you weren’t not a monastic, but fasting without prayer is just a diet. So today I ask, do you pray? I mean do you really pray, or do you just list off a litany of needs and wants and expect God to “answer your prayers” and give you what you want? Prayer is a central aspect of our relationship with God and the Saints. Without proper prayer, we might just be listening to ourselves talk.
We’re deep in the Great Fast and there is PreSanctified Liturgy this evening in most places, so I wanted to address fasting. I mentioned last week that you shouldn’t choose your own fast, and today I want to expand upon that. It can be difficult to navigate the Great Fast, especially if you are new to Orthodoxy or newly invigorated to practice the faith you inherited from your parents.