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.
Helping Others through Hospitality
Do you remember the first time you tried to cook a Lenten meal for your family? It can be quite intimidating to look at a bowl full of vegetables and realize that you need to find a way to cook them without the flavor enhancement of milk, eggs, chicken stock, or even olive oil depending on the level of fasting you are keeping this year for Great Lent. We’re here to help!
As Christians we know the command in the Holy Scriptures to constantly pray. We know there are different types of prayer, both communal and private. Last week as part of our going public theme I spoke about praying in public, but this week I want to focus on how we help each other in prayer. It may not mean what you think it means.
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.