Sunday, March 13, 2016

The First Week of Great Lent

On Monday, March 14 we begin the Christian Spring – Great Lent. One of the metaphors that has been used for the Holy Church since ancient times is that of a spiritual hospital. If this is the case during the rest of the year, then during Great Lent we could think of the Holy Church as a spiritual intensive care unit. Somehow, often through our own temptations, the Lord mercifully shows us our spiritual weaknesses and shortcomings especially starkly during this time of year. This is something for which we should be THANKFUL. Yes – thankful. We often avoid looking at ourselves honestly during much of our lives, but somehow, through God's Grace, we are able to see ourselves for who we really are during Great Lent. And this is something that allows us to better struggle with our sins. St. Anthony the Great said that if we know ourselves we know everything. Great Lent allows us to learn more about ourselves so that we may better struggle against our spiritual weaknesses both during Great Lent - and outside Great Lent as well.

The first week of Great Lent is replete with Divine Services. This is for our good – it allows us to come to God's House, to seek the solace that can only be found there, and also the medicine of repentance that allows us to begin to work in earnest on our spiritual shortcomings. Each day of the first week we allow time for confession – generally during and after the Great Compline services (once the Canon has been read). WE SHOULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS OPPORTUNITY. Each of us is called to prepare ourselves to partake of Holy Communion on Saturday or Sunday (or both) of the first week. Confession is an important part of preparation for Holy Communion – and if the Lord is helping us to better see our sins then we should bring these to Confession.

The Divine Services are the theology of the Holy Church in action. During Great Lent the services have a special penitential character. The Holy Church provided us five full Sundays of preparation for Great Lent. This should show us how important the Church considers this time of year. When we are participating in the Divine Services of the first week we especially feel the theology of the Church – that repentance is necessary for us to draw nearer to God. And that is why we offer the opportunity to confess each day – so that as the Lord reveals to each of us our need for repentance we have the opportunity to act on that immediately.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage our parish family to participate in the Divine Services of this time of year to the greatest extent possible – and to push yourselves a bit in this regard. If one attends only the weekend Divine Services of Great Lent one notices little change from the non-Lenten time. But if one attends the weekday services – the difference is both clear and impressive – and this is very helpful for our spiritual lives. The hymnography of the Divine Services contains all the spiritual truths of our faith. Please participate in the services as your schedule allows.

And please ask questions here about fasting, the Divine Services, Great Lent in general, or any other aspect of our faith. May the Lord grant all a spiritually profitable Lenten journey!

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