The Beginning of Great Lent 2009

 AS OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHURCH PREPARES US GREAT LENT, SHE PREPARES US FOR A JOURNEY.  SHE SPEAKS TO US CONCERNING OUR JOURNEY TO PASCHA.  THE JOURNEY WE BEGIN IS TO THE CROSS, TO THE TOMB AND TO THE GLORIOUS RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOUR, JESUS CHRIST.  WE ARE REMINDED THAT WE WILL NOT MAKE THIS JOURNEY ALONE, BUT THAT WE WILL JOURNEY WITH THE LORD, AND TRAVEL WITH OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST.  PREPARING FOR THIS JOURNEY WE ARE NOT GIVEN A LIST OF THINGS TO BRING, NOR DOES THE CHURCH TELL US WHAT TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT ON THE ROAD.  HOWEVER, SHE SPEAKS DIRECTLY TO US ABOUT OUR ATTITUDES.  LENT CAN BE SUMMED UP BY THE PHRASE, “SHARING AND CARING” INSTEAD OF “DO’S OR DON’TS”.  ATTITUDES CONCERNING OUR NEIGHBOUR ARE OF THE PRIMARY IMPORTANCE DURING THIS PREPARATION FOR PASCHA.  IN OUR HEARTS, EACH OF US KNOWS THAT OUR LIVES ARE FAR FROM PERFECT.  WE REALIZE THAT WE MUST SEEK FORGIVENESS FROM GOD FOR FALLING AWAY FROM HIM, BY PUTTING HIM OUT OF FOCUS IN OUR LIVES.  WE KNOW THAT THIS FORGIVENESS IS NECESSARY FOR OUR RETURN TO HIM.  AT THE BEGINNING OF THE GREAT FAST, WE ARE TOLD THAT THE FORGIVENESS, WHICH WE SEEK FROM GOD IS CONDITIONAL.  IT IS CONTINGENT ON OUR ATTITUDES TOWARD OTHERS. ARE WE PREPARED TO SHARE OURSELVES WITH OUR NEIGHBOUR?  ARE WE PREPARED TO CARE WITH COMPASSION?  CAN WE FORGIVE OTHERS?  DO WE CARRY ANIMOSITY IN OUR HEARTS, WHILE SEEKING FORGIVENESS FOR OURSELVES?  OUR FORGIVENESS FROM GOD IS COMMENSURATE WITH THE FORGIVENESS WE OFFER THOSE WHO HAVE OFFENDED US.  THE GREAT CHRISTIAN MARTYR OF THIS LAST CENTURY, DIETRICH BONHOEFFER SUMMED UP OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR FELLOW CHRISTIANS IN THIS WAY:   

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

” IN A WORD, LIVE TOGETHER IN FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS, FOR WITHOUT IT NO HUMAN FELLOWSHIP CAN SURVIVE.  dON’T INSIST ON YOUR RIGHTS, DON’T BLAME EACH OTHER, DON’T JUDGE OR CONDEMN EACH OTHER, DON’T FIND FAULT WITH EACH OTHER, BUT ACCEPT EACH OTHER AS YOU ARE AND FORGIVE EACH OTHER EVERY DAY FROM THE BOTTOM OF YOUR HEARTS.”

AS WE BEGIN OUR LENTEN JOURNEY, LET US NOT BE SO CONCERNED WITH WHAT ENTERS OUR MOUTHS, AS WHAT COMES OUT OF THEM.  AS WE PROVIDE FOR OUR SPIRIT IN ADDITIONAL PRAYER AND SOUL SEARCHING.  LET US SUBDUE OUR EGOS AND OUR JUDGEMENT OF THOSE WE ENCOUNTER.  LET US TURN TO GOD IN REPENTANCE WITH HUMILITY, ONLY AFTER WE SOFTEN THE HARDNESS OF OUR OWN HEARTS AND GRANT FORGIVENESS TO THOSE CLOSE TO US.  WE MUST REACH OUT TO THOSE WHO HAVE HURT US OR OFFENDED US.  EQUALLY WE MUST GENEROUSLY ACCEPT OTHERS SEEKING OUR FORGIVENESS.  AS THE HYMNS OF VESPERS OF FORGIVENESS REVEAL:

 “REJOICING IN THE VIRTUES OF THE SPIRIT – MAY WE PERSEVERE WITH LOVE, AND SO BE COUNTED WORTHY TO SEE THE SOLEMN PASSION OF CHRIST OUR GOD, AND WITH GREAT SPIRITUAL GLADNESS TO BEHOLD HIS HOLY RESURRECTION.”