Our Great Lenten Journey ends today with a view toward death. Great Lent has been our opportunity to die to the world through our Lenten disciplines. For forty days (longer actually) we have fasted with a strictness that is unique to Great Lent. Even if you just started today, fasting is a form of death. But that death leads to heaven, not a tomb.
Normally you receive our Daily Lenten Journey early in the morning, but the past couple days have been a bit hectic. We were not prepared to send our daily post this morning, but as they say better late then never! Here is today’s post, and it IS better late than never to start you Great Lenten Journey, even if tomorrow is the last day of Great Lent.
For weeks Great Lent has been forcing us to focus on how to live our life. Whether it be fasting, extra prayers, helping the poor, or which services to attend this week, we have been forced to make choices. Of course, the Church would prefer us to choose to attend services tonight, but free will allow for us to choose. If we are interested in growing closer to Christ, then we accept that the choices of Great Lent help us to learn to choose to live as Christ would want us to live.
It has become popular to discount the Great Lenten journey with slogans half inspired by the Holy Scriptures and half inspired by our selfish desires. All the talk about prayer, fasting, and attending Church services during Great Lent, tends to bring out the ‘experts’ about what God ‘really’ wants from our lives.
By now, if you’re like every other Orthodox Christian, you can recall at least one if not several examples of where or how you have failed during Great Lent this year. You learned, probably weeks ago, that just because you say you want to fast this year, doesn’t mean that you will succeed every day of Great Lent. There are forty days of fasting, just counting the actual days of Great Lent, let alone the days before and after that are also days of fasting. But just because you may have failed once or twice, or a dozen times, doesn’t mean you have failed.
When James and John asked Christ, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory,” Jesus responded with a challenge, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10.37-38) What the disciples were hoping for glory was not quite what Jesus had in mind.
One of the important aspects of Great Lent is to remember that our Orthodox Christian way of life is ancient and inspired by God. With an ever-increasing number of Christian “denominations” with traditions and customs established as recently as last month. The same cannot be said about Great Lent in the Orthodox Church.
It can be very frustrating at the height of Great Lent to continually be expected to sacrifice, whether it be fasting or charitable work for others. It isn’t that we don’t want to be fasting or serving others. It’s just that we look around, and it can seem like nobody else is doing what we are doing, especially during Great Lent. Can God really be expecting us to do something nobody else is willing to do?
As we approach the final Sunday of Great Lent when the Church commemorates the repentance of Saint Mary of Egypt, it is a good opportunity to talk about what happens when we allow sin to get out of control in our lives. Left unchecked, sin can overtake our soul to the point where we may not even recognize ourselves.
We have all heard about the righteousness of Abraham, and how God made His covenant with Abraham who would be the father of many nations. We have heard Saint Paul speak about the faith of Abraham that was accounted as righteous. But nowhere do we hear about Abraham being perfect. Is there a difference between perfection and righteousness?