My Journey to the Way- Part 5 – Lent

I joined in about 2 weeks late, but I fasted for Lent, giving up dairy and meats.  It was not easy.  My body reacted by making me ravenously hungry. And I can’t say I read every label and completely followed every element, but I did pretty good.  I went into it not knowing really what was the purpose of Lent.  I knew part of it is to identify with Christ in His sufferings. I am still not clear about all of it, but the self-discipline of it, the denial of self, the focusing of our energies of Christ, makes us better followers of God .  I felt that.  I am eager to do it again next year.

Not just the fasting, but also the services. I attended all I could.  It is amazing how the worship services are so saturated in scriptures.  Two of the services were approximately 2 and half hours in length.  We read all of Psalm 119 in one service and several long passages in the gospels in another.  I managed to attend the Monday night Matins of the Bridegroom about the 10 virgins, the Friday night service about Lazarus, the Holy Saturday Matins, and the 11:30 pm service that lasted til 3:30 am.  We went back then for the 1:30 Sunday service.  Quite an exhausting experience, but spiritually refreshing as well.

Father Timothy had walked me through it during my session with him, so I knew some of what to expect.  There were beautiful aspects of it.  I was very moved with the icon of Christ being taken down from the Cross.  We marched around the church like a funeral procession led by the icon of Christ being borne above the heads of 4 men.  They stood in the doorway of the church still holding it high while we passed under the body of Christ and kissed the Word of God as we entered.

Time stood still as we commemorated the death and resurrection of Christ.  We stood with Mary and John there in Jerusalem at His Cross.  We went with Joseph as he brought the body of our Lord to the tomb.  We watched the stone being rolled into place and the guards set.

The lights came on, the  priests wore white, the people rejoiced as they sang “Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs bestowing life!” over and over.  Jerusalem shone and Mary was radiant.  We felt all that as that sacred moment in time stood still.

We rejoiced further to realize once again that as Christ called Lazarus’s name and he came forth alive from being in the grave 4 days, so He will call His own by name some day and we will also come forth to live with Him forever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The most important event ever to take place was celebrated.

I felt so much closer to the people after that.  I want to be closer still.

There is the matter of confession.

to be continued…

MY JOURNEY TO THE WAY- PART 4 – more hope

Father Timothy said he will interested in my thoughts about Lent.  The saturation and poetry of the scripture readings went straight to my soul where they steeped in the deep waters of my being.  I had never experienced Easter in that way before.  It was a journey with Christ from Lazarus  to the Resurrection in Holy Week.  I loved it!

An act of love I will also never forget was that of Nadine sharing her umbrella with me, holding it more over my head than hers so that she got rained on and I did not.  I felt so bad, but she insisted.  I was unworthy of such an act and so receiving that gift was extremely difficult.

The fast itself was difficult at times as well.  Part of it was that I still have yet to grasp the significance of it.  I am willing to learn.

My favorite part of Holy Week was the Friday service where the Lamentations were read.  You know that author who actually puts into words the thoughts in your mind?  This is Lamentations for me.  It is full of the echos of my soul.  I absolutely loved it!  It included Lamentations in the Bible but also had the journey of Christ to the Cross, to Hades to the Resurrection in beautiful language.

There was something special about the Lazarus story that struck my soul. Jesus called to Lazarus  after he was in the grave for 4 days.  Lazarus was indeed dead. No doubt about it.  When they removed the stone, the smell of rotting flesh must have escaped the tomb. There were people standing outside the tomb, as the icon depicts, with their hands over their nose, not in wonder, but because of the smell.  That is reality.

But what strikes me is that Lazarus had nothing to do with Jesus calling His name.  He did not ask for that to happen.  He was helpless to respond. He was dead. He did not want to respond, but neither could he refuse to respond.  He was dead.

The same principle is shown in the story about the 4 friends who let down their sick friend through the roof to the room where Jesus  was.  The story says nothing about the sick man’s desires, condition or status.  It says nothing about his morals or his righteousness.  What it does talk about is the concern and action of his 4 friends.

There is hope, therefore, for the one who has strayed from following Jesus, and cannot even see that they are dead in their sins.  They may be blind in the darkness in which they are walking and may not even have a desire to change.  Worse, they may have deceived themselves and really believe that God would have them happy in the lifestyle they have chosen.

The hope is that the prayers and faith of the ones who love them may be effectual and may avail much.  God may have mercy, give sight to the blind and cause their spiritual awakening and salvation.  This is the hope for every parent who grieves over a lost child. The hope for every lost or wayward soul who is loved by one who knows God.