Lent: the Spring Time of the Soul
The Lenten Spring begins
The Lenten Spring shines forth
The flower of repentance!
Lent brings the cure to our crippling lives
Let us enter the Fast with joy, O Faithful!
Let us not be sad.
These are some of the quotations from the Church Offices during the first week of the Great Fast You will notice that the Fast is welcomed in a spirit of joy. Throughout the whole season of the Great Fast, there is a spirit of brightness and light. It is an invitation to us to make a spiritual adventure, a journey that will lead us to the celebration of Easter.
It is sad that quite often the Great Fast as we call lent is so often misunderstood. It was once seen as what I like to call a time of organized gloom, a “give up” time. The question for this day is not what one is going to give up- it should be: what can I become? True, it is a time, first of all of fasting. No one is too old to fast. Fasting is not a simple option. In today’s Gospel Jesus presumes that fasting is part of our spiritual discipline. He says – “When you fast”. It is a time when we give alms and support to the needy. It is a time when entertainments, pleasure trips, diversions, are curtailed. This is to give us time for more quiet in out lives. Noise is the one great distraction from the time of meditation and prayer that this season should become. It is a time for us to cultivate in our lives the gifts of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, and self-control.
The Great Fast begins at sundown during a service called Forgiveness Vespers. A theme of this service can be seen in the following prayer said tonight: “O Lord, the light of your grace has risen and shines in our souls. Behold, now is the acceptable time, the season of repentance is here. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” In today’s epistle, reading St. Paul encourages us to – “throw off the works of darkness” and to begin to conduct our lives as children of the light. In his epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul enumerates some of the works that brings darkness into our lives: “hatred, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness”. Today we can reflect on the racial and ethnic hatred and worship of warfare that eats away at our society.
The service brings to mind a most important teaching of Jesus: “if you bring your gifts to the altar, and there recall that your brother has something against you, leave your gifts there at the altar, go first to be reconciled, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt 5: 24}. Here is a Jesus’ reality check: before prayer or any devotional act, there must be a heart at peace with all. Grudges, “chips on the shoulder”, old resentments turn our prayers and devotions into ashes. Perhaps today the most important thing one might have to do is to make an apology to someone one has not spoken to for a long time. Does a letter of apology have to be written? If one is on the outs with someone in the family or neighbor, reconciliation is to be made before prayer to our Father.
Bishop Kallistos once wrote that repentance is the door through which we enter Lent. It is the starting point of our journey to Easter, He says that repentance is more then self-pity or futile regrets for things done in out past, To repent is to be renewed, to be transformed in our world viewpoint, to attain a fresh way of looking at our relationship with God and others. The fault of the Pharisee is that he has no desire to change his outlook; he is complacent, self-satisfied, and he allows no place for God to act in him. The Publican truly longs for a “change of mind”. I pray this week that as we begin the Great Fast:
- That we allow a place of God to act in us
- That we receive a fresh new way of looking at our lives
- That complacency be removed from us
- That we all become very hungry for God.
“Come all you people and today let us accept the GRACE OF THE Great Fast as a gift from God and as a time for repentance, in which we may find mercy with the Savior. The time for the spiritual combat is at hand has already begun! Let all of us set forth eagerly upon the course of the Fast, offering our virtues as gifts to the Lord” (Morning Prayer for Monday of the First Week of the Fast)
The forty days we begin symbolizes the forty years the People of God wondered in the desert. Also, during this time we imitate Jesus Our Lord, who fasted for forty days in the desert following his baptism. The feast of Pascha was the time for baptisms; the Great Fast was the time of preparation for baptisms. Our observance of the Great Fast therefore is our renewal of our own baptism.
Kontakion for the first week: “O my soul, devote yourself to repentance and unite yourself to Christ in your mind. Pardon my terrible deeds that I may receive from You, who alone are good, forgiveness and eternal life”
The readings for this first week concern the creation of the universe and mankind, and the fall of the human race from God’s grace.