If there is one thing we can learn during our Great Lenten Journey, is that God will always be present among us. During the weeks of Great Lent our patience is challenged, our hunger is tested, and our endurance to maintain the faith is constantly confronted. Yet through all our difficulties during Great lent, God is always there.
No matter how many times I have walked the Great Lenten Journey, the week before Holy Week is always a bit of a boost for me. At this point, there is no stopping my journey. There have been some grueling moments in the past 36 days, but Great Lent will be over in four days, and I’m already looking ahead to the next race. At least I won’t have to wait long.
The Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to God. There was only one condition. She had to say yes. God gave her the complete free will to accept the struggle to accept His offer. Every day we are faced with the same option. God has a plan for our salvation, and there is only one condition. We must say yes. The choice is ours to make.
Every day and during every service of the Church, we pray the words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” These words found in the Lord’s Prayer, given to us by God are the root of our entire Christian life. These words are also the foundation of every spiritual struggle as far back as our ancestors in The Garden. As we celebrate today, just over two thousand years ago, a young girl not only understood the meaning of these words, she spoke them from her heart and changed world history.
This weekend the Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation. It is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church, which even though it occurs during Great Lent, is celebrated with Divine Liturgy and a “lightening” of the fast. In other words, we eat fish. But that is not what I want to focus on today. Today I want to focus on how we honor the Theotokos, the All-Holy Mother of God.
Today is the Fifth Friday of Great Lent, a day on which the Church commemorate the Akathyst Hymn to the Theotokos. The hymn has a historical and spiritual significance for Orthodox Christians. It recalls a time when the Church was under persecution, but never gave up hope. With faith in God, the Church called upon His Mother for protection. The Akathyst Hymn was offered by the people as adoration to the Theotokos in hopes that God would save His people from their enemies. What does this have to do with Great Lent?
I was recently asked, “Can someone love their religion and not ever go to Church?” By religion, the questioner implied Orthodox. What a great time to address this question! During Great Lent our attention is on increased participation in Church activities and services. It is a clear implication that “good” members of the Church “do” Great Lent. In fact, I know many believers who only fast during Great Lent, and who only receive the Mysteries during Great Lent. Unfortunately, there are still those who don’t come to Church, some not even for the Resurrection Service on Pascha.
We are almost to the final stretch of Great Lent with only one Sunday remaining. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to grow closer to Christ as of yet, you may think it’s too late, but it’s never too late until it’s too late. Even a ninety-nine-year old man can begin a new journey with Christ.
It is no secret that here at Be Transfigured Ministries we place a great amount of emphasis on living the life the Church has established. We do so with faith in the Church which has been guided by the Holy Spirit since the very first day of the Church. This year’s Daily Lenten Journey has spent a lot of time discussing the centrality of our free will to choose the Church life. Our slogan at Be Transfigured Ministries, Live A New Life In Christ, is based upon this free choice, but the choice rest on one critical element….our intentions.
During every journey we arrive at a crossroad which requires a decision, and our Great Lenten Journey is no different. Admittedly, our Christian life is filled with crossroad moments that are not limited to Great Lent, but every Christian comes to a point when we must choose, “Are we in this or not?” Are we really willing to choose the Christian struggle, or not? Up until this moment, maybe loyalty or a bit of guilt has been enough encouragement to keep up the struggle, but now we must choose. Are we in, or out?