One of the more popular expressions among what you might call mainline Christians is, “God put on my heart…” or some version of understanding that God was speaking to them. Some even use the phrase, “God told me…” I rarely hear such an expression among Orthodox Christians, but does that mean God isn’t speaking to us? Maybe it means He is, but we’re not listening.
I’ve been a priest for thirteen years, a clergyman for fifteen, and worked for the Church for nearly twenty-seven years. In all my years in Church work, one common frustration I hear is, “I don’t have enough time to pray like the Church wants.” During Great Lent, the Church invites us to get more intense in our spiritual struggle. We are asked to go to Church more, say our prayers more, fast more, and help other people more. Then I realized today, this year we have been presented with the ideal opportunity to take the Church up on her offer.
As promised, this week we are focusing on hope for our Daily Lenten Journey during this health crisis. I don’t mind admitting, I didn’t turn the news on even once yesterday, and already I’m feeling more at peace. I’m not suggesting living in ignorance. I’m quite aware of the severity of the situation, but I just needed the day off from the news. I’ll get caught up today. In meantime, I’m focusing on hope.
During this unique season of Great Lent this year, because of the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID19), the Church has asked us to stay home. The Church has asked us to not come to Church during some of the most holy days of the year. This goes against our normal thinking, but for the good of our neighbors and society in general, we must stay away from the Church. Christ invites us, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” When we are obedient to our Church Fathers and leaders, we learn to sacrifice our will.
Today we begin the third week of our Great Lenten Journey, first having remembered venerating (even if virtually from our computer screens) the Holy Cross yesterday. With the memory of the struggle of the cross that waits our entire Christian life, today the Church reminds us of the hope that God has promised.
We are officially half-way through our Great Lenten Journey. Remember, the forty days ends the day before Saturday of Lazarus, and today is day twenty! We’ve made it this far, and if you’re still “in the game” chances are you will finish the race. Congratulations on making it this far! I’ve written a great deal about how this year’s health crisis has affected our journey. Today I’ll look ahead at try to “reframe” the second half of our journey considering the new, albeit temporary, reality.
As the second week of Great Lent comes to an end this weekend, we look back at a week filled with anxiety and emotional rollercoasters. If you’re like me, you have to force yourself to turn off the news just to have some peace and quiet. The last time I experienced this much public tension to this level was in the days and weeks after 9/11. I remember feeling like the anxiety might never end, and the (then new) 24-hour cable news didn’t help insisting on airing over and over scenes of panic.