When you think of Great Lent, you should think about your spiritual health. When we are not healthy, we call our doctor. After the doctor examines our condition, he offers his opinion on what we must do to get better. He may even write a prescription for our benefit. At that point, it is up to us whether or not we fulfill the prescription if we wish to get better.
Great Lent is almost half-way over, and by now you are “feeling the pain” of the Fast, even if only in your stomach. One of the blessings of Great Lent, any fast really, is that it helps us to learn an important lesson about struggle. No matter what we are struggling with, the struggle never lasts forever.
Take a moment and read (or re-read if you have already read it) today’s reading from Genesis.
If you are a parent, then you know the feeling of watching your children, wondering if they will need you to come to their rescue. Whether they are swimming for the first time, riding a bike for the second time, or just living life as a child, you know that at any moment, you children may need you to save them. You spend your life watching and waiting for that moment to come. It always comes.
It doesn’t matter what life throws your way, God is always looking out for us. At difficult times in our life, it may not be noticeable that God is watching over us, but indeed He is. Most often we realize this through the rearview mirror of life, when we realize that God had never left our side, even when we thought we were alone. Right about now, almost half-way through Great Lent, you might be wondering where God is, in all this Lenten temptation.
Yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos by the Archangel Gabriel. Being one of the Twelve Great Feasts, and a Feast of the Lord, Great Lent (sort of) took a day off yesterday. From the way we ate to the what Scriptures we read and how we celebrated Divine Liturgy, it was all different yesterday, with just a hint of Great Lent.
When Jesus sees the faith of four friends, who bring to Him their paralyzed friend, the Scriptures tell us “Seeing their faith,” that Jesus forgave sins and healed the man. Friends matter, and as The Church, we have the power to help each other, and to bring others to Christ for healing. We are all bound to each other. It is because of Church that we are able to help each other.
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, the moment in which the Archangel Gabriel gave the All-Holy and Ever-Virgin Mary the glorious news that she would give birth to the Son of God. This Good News ushered in a new era in human history. God, by His love and grace, became a human for our salvation. Truly, today is a great day. It is too bad today is also shaded by darkness on television.
In the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Great Lent, the Church draws our attention to the benefit of Church in our struggle to reach Christ. Contrary to what we might think, we need the Church in order to reach Christ, just as the paralytic man needed his friends in order to reach Christ. Then he could be healed, and so can we.
Let’s face it. In contemporary America, we are surrounded a society that most times is in direct conflict with our Orthodox way of life. The constant preoccupation with sex, violence and unimpeded selfishness, and all seem a bit daunting. In fact, now that we are placing extra emphasis on prayer, fasting, almsgiving, worship and the like, we may even experience Great Lent as lonely place, considering many of our fellow Orthodox Christians don’t embrace Great Lent like we do.
This week we have been discussing the ways in which we can experience the energies of God. Since our ancestors were removed from the Garden, humanity has experienced the energy of God not as love, but as punishment. I have often compared it to how children experience the love of their parents trying to keep them safe. Children approach a hot stove, and a parent slaps hands to keep them safe. The child experienced that love as pain rather than joy. It is easy to read the Old Testament and see an angry and vengeful God, rather than love.