Here we go again

As we begin our 2021 Great Lenten Journey today with Clean Monday, I am always reminded (and refreshed) by the repetitive nature of the Church calendar. We are not the same people we were last year, especially considering the global pandemic, so this year our Daily Lenten Journey will focus on how we have grown, if we have grown, and where we are headed in our spiritual life. Let’s get fasting!

In many Orthodox churches throughout the globe last night, the Vespers of Forgiveness were celebrated. This very moving services normally concludes with a “forgiveness circle” in which each person in the Church approaches to seek and to give forgiveness. It is a time for clean and open hearts, as forgiveness can only be real if it comes from the heart. This year, as we approached each other, wearing face masks due to the pandemic, I was reminded that our Holy Orthodox Traditions have survived centuries of struggle both physical and political, and this pandemic is no different. It has been one year since our nation closed down, since Churches went virtual, and life was halted. Today, our Church are mostly open, though with reduces capacity, and life is slowly returning to a semblance of normal. It is my prayer that faithful who gathered for this blessed tradition remembered to forgive each other from the nasty arguments over how the Church handled the pandemic.

Since today is Clean Monday, and many are fasting all day, I invite you to call or write a friend with whom you have been estranged lately and ask for forgiveness. Pay special attention to those with whom you may have offended during the pandemic, keeping in mind that faith in God’s power to protect and heal comes in many shapes and sizes. Just because one believes a mask is not necessary does not mean he or she has perfect faith. As Saint Paul reminds us in Romans 14.

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.” Romans 14.1-3

Of course Paul is not speaking of face masks, but I believe the issues are related. If we were not supposed to judge each other’s faith because of meat offered to idols (this was the issue), how can we judge if someone is taking caution for their health? Let’s stop the bickering and ‘get back to church’ for our salvation. Face masks or not, we must bear with each other in the pandemic, lest the devil further separate us from God and each other.


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