When I speak with people about fasting in general, but especially about the Great Fast, I always discourage the concept of “giving something up for Lent” mainly because it has a self-orientation rather than heavenly. When you practice the give something up for Lent model, you are basically saying, “I will choose my own fast. I will choose my own rules. I will choose my own faith.” That lies in total contrast to Christ’s invitation to, “Deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8.34)
Today is half-way through the first week of Great Lent. If you are in any way making an effort to keep some sort of fast, attend some of the services, read some of the Scriptures (they are from the Old Testament during Great Lent), pray some of the special prayers, then by now you are also probably suffering from spiritual and physical stress. By now you may be wondering if “all this” might be worth it. Never fear, the Church is here!
As we look back on our life in the Church, especially during Great Lent, we eventually land upon some acceptance of the purpose of the Church why do we gather each Sunday? Why do we offer programs for our youth? Why do we both to take the Church up on her offer for such a spiritually intense Great Lenten Journey?
Each year Be Transfigured Ministries offers a Daily Lenten Journey Blog to assist you in maintaining a holy focus during the struggle that is the Great Fast. This year, we invite you to do just a little bit more than you did last year during the Great Fast. It is not our goal to be your spiritual father. Not only is that not possible since we only “know each other” through blog posts and videos, but because our Holy Tradition is to have a spiritual relationship with our Father Confessor. He is responsible to God to guide you in the proper director for your salvation.
On the final Sunday before the Great Fast, the Church reminds us of the importance of forgiveness in our salvation. Without forgiveness, there is no salvation. When we refuse to forgive others for what they may have done against us, we forget that all sin is against God, and it is His sole discretion to forgive. If we refuse to forgive, it is because we have placed ourselves as greater than God. If God is willing to forgive, who are we to refuse? We must take the responsibility for our sin of pride and ego, or we will never ask for forgiveness.
We live in a 24-hour society built on the concept that staying busy, whether it be making money or perfecting a hobby, is the litmus test for a successful life. More and more adults delay retirement not because they can’t afford to retire, although that is true for many, but because they can’t stand the idea of not going to work in the morning. We start this busy agenda from a young age. School have drastically reduced recess time to allow for classroom time, while after-school activities are no longer limited to after school.
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.
On the final Sunday of the Triodion, the day before Holy and Great Lent, our hearts and minds are focused on the blessed opportunity for forgiveness. We call this day, Forgiveness Sunday, and the Gospel lesson begins with the truth, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6.14-15)
What if when we die, we all end up in the same place? What if we all end up in heaven? What if we don’t like being in heaven? The story of the Last Judgment found in Matthew 25.31-46 lays out the criteria Christ will use in our judgment. Are we able to see others in the same way Christ sees them? The story isn’t about making a list of required tasks, but rather whether how we see others. If we can’t see them in the same light that Christ see them, we may not recognize heaven when we get there.
Half way through the Triodion, and we have been reminded that we are all sinners in need of repentance, and that when one does repent and return home, we must welcome them with open arms. On the third Sunday of Triodion, known as Judgment Sunday, we are reminded of another danger.