The Great Fast is only a few days away. If you follow the fasting rules of the Church, you have already begun to fast from meat. If you really like meat, you may wonder if you can make it all the way to Pascha. If you’re new to fasting, you’re almost sure you won’t make it unless something greater than you love for meat serves as your encouragement. All week the Church has been reminding us of what lies ahead.
In today’s Gospel lesson (you can read the entire passage below) we are reminded of Holy Week and the arrest and trial of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are reminded of the many people who told lies about Christ to not only have Him arrested, but to be killed. We are reminded that the same people who welcomed Jesus as their King on Palm Sunday, turned on Him in the last days of Holy Week. Our reminders today are not just those who turned on Christ. We are also reminded of the love that Simon of Cyrene had for Christ as he carried the Cross for our Lord. We are reminded of the other faithful men and women who wept for Christ.
It isn’t a matter of whether you will need encouragement to make it through the Great Fast. You WILL need encouragement. A simple desire to “keep the rules” won’t be strong enough over the next weeks, as we know from the Gospel that many Pharisees who kept ALL the rules still did not remain faithful to Christ. You will need to remain focused on why we have the Great Fast in the first place. The Great Fast is a time for us to consciously set aside extra time to work on our relationship with God. It is a time for us to consciously prioritize not only what we do during the day, but what we eat, what we say, what we see, and what we think. It is a time for us to consciously place Jesus Christ at the very core of every moment of every day.
If keeping Christ at the very core of your conscious at ever moment isn’t the reason you’re fasting, or attending the services, or serving the poor, etc., then you won’t be successful during the Great Fast. Sure, you may go 57 days with eating meat, but if keeping Christ at the core of your conscious isn’t your goal, your fasting will achieve nothing more than improving your cholesterol.
As our continual goal at Be Transfigured Ministries is to assist you to Live A New Life In Christ, through the Orthodox Christian life, we will always try to remind you of the spiritual purpose of our Holy Traditions. In the very least during the Great Fast, remembering it isn’t about the rules, may be enough encouragement to keep you going.
At that time, the chief priests, the scribes, and elders of the people brought Jesus before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king." And Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" And he answered him, "You have said so." And Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, "I find no crime in this man." But they were urgent, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place."
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length; but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then, arraying him in gorgeous apparel, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him; I will therefore chastise him and release him." Now he was obliged to release one man to them at the festival.
But they all cried out together, "Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas" -- a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, "Crucify, crucify him!" A third time he said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him." But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.
And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, "Certainly this man was innocent!" And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance and saw these things.
Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid; then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. - Luke 23:1-31, 33, 44-56