If you have been participating in the various Lenten Church services, via livestream for your safety of course, you may have noticed a great deal of reading from the Book of Psalms. Some services like the Great Compline are comprised mostly from the Book of Psalms. Do you ever wonder why certain Psalms were chosen for the services?
In normal times, these are not normal times, it isn’t much of a challenge to view the present with the eyes of the future. We know that hard work now pays off later. We recall the fable of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. But in times of stress such as these days, it can be difficult to focus on the future when today seems to be enough of a struggle.
On the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent, the Church calls us to service of our brothers and sisters. Instead of being preoccupied with our own position, we are called by Christ to the slave of all. This is only possible when we think beyond ourselves. As our society continues with social distancing and stay at home orders, and we continue to be forced to worship from home rather than in the Church, it is our turn to serve others by staying home. It is our turn to be the slave of all, for the good of society.
I’ve noticed something on social media during the past few weeks that concerns me. As if it isn’t difficult enough for families to be quarantined, or at the very least to be limited in movement outside the home, I understand tensions can run high in family dynamics. That being said, I also think parents need to be parents during this crisis rather than friends.
When Saint James and Saint John, the Apostles of Christ, ask Jesus to honor their commitment with special seats in heaven Jesus said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10.33-34) He said this to show the difference between how the world acts toward others as opposed to how God wants us to act toward others. We Christians are not supposed to desire seats of honor. We Christians are not supposed to want to be served by others. We Christians are supposed to serve others.
It has become natural in our lives to expect to be able to enter the Church, light our candle, reverence the holy icons, make an offering to the Church, and pray inside the main Church, which we Orthodox refer as the Nave. All that has changed with the Coronavirus (COVID19) and yet nothing has changed.
Part of the Great Lenten struggle is to find the willingness to endure the journey. In order for us to have any spiritual gain during this journey, we must accept that we God has appointed this struggle for our benefit. As we approach the end of the fifth week of Great Lent, you may wonder if you have what it takes to finish the race.
Today is a day normally reserved for pranks and practical jokes amongst friends. I admit I enjoy April first with the best of practical jokers, but this year I’m not so much in the mood for practical jokes. I wish this entire Coronavirus (COVID19) thing was a practical joke. Alas, it is real, so we must make the most of the challenges for God’s glory.
In our effort to reduce our anxiety this week, I invite you to consider Who it is that you are on this journey to please? As Orthodox Christians, we spend most of our time talking about defeating pride, and loving others as ourselves, but Who are you doing this for? Is it for your children, your spouse, your friend? You might think I believe you should be on this journey for yourself, but you would be wrong.