Monthly Archives: March 2014

Resolve for a Lenten Life in Christ

“Our Life in Christ is a cycle of repentance and renewal. We must fast from ourselves, from our “me’s, our my’s, and our mines”, that we might find and shift our focus to feasting with (and on) Christ…. His body, His blood, His Life, His Kingdom, His people and His Word… that in all their fullness….  they might be embodied in us, run through our veins, fill our lives, and find their voice in our words and deeds.” This is our charge as Christians at all times… but especially here and now, especially in Lent and the run-up to Pascha. We’re called to re-commit ourselves to this path with more intensity, to celebrate the vibrancy of Christ in our lives as the Resurrection of our “inner child”, the once-wayward Adam and Eve, and find their Joy… their burst of energy in our lives in that second chance they seized in drawing close to the Source of Life in Christ’s Descent, and together exiting the nether tombs of Hades.

Our life beyond the tomb is here and now where the hand of God reaches out for us to seize if we will. But we have to let go of all we think we know as well. For this Life in Christ is no simple add-on, as though we might be filled with Life while still holding fast to all that kills and clutters our passing fancies. Truth is we can’t expect to botox our hearts down to some sort of core as though a preservative could do more than embalm and inure ourselves. We can’t expect to hold with racing through our lives, running right by those around us… and somehow claim we’ve lived. Today’s fascination with gore and violence of the Walking Dead isn’t as far from the truth as it seems… still, the challenge lies less in being held spellbound than in breaking free, illumining our lives in the light of Christ, and freeing ourselves from despair. It’s less about what we let go, and more in turning toward Life itself.

And if in fact we do, if we take up this path, renew and illumine our way with the light of Christ in our lives by living for others… we’re going to wonder not just at the outset… but surely here and there as well… at how small the outer difference truly seems – which by all accounts it is, but the inner change is wondrous. And yes, that small voice that whispers, “Nah… it’s much worse, much smaller than you think! Don’t do it…” will still worm its way in our heads from time to time. But its appeal is far less if we can recall how the path to The Kingdom begins far from highways, off a turn or two down a quiet lane where precisely the small turns and simple steps that seem the only ones we can manage at these times – are exactly the way we needed… as though it were this way and no other. For the Kingdom will in fact yield… and the magic of compound “interest” will work as slowly but surely on our heaven-mindedness until in time, and as God provides, wills and we allow… the door opens.

So yes, we can reach and even grasp the outstretched hand we can’t see …but only if we let go of what we do or think we see. We find this hard… harder than we know or can manage most of the time… and we miss, too. But there is no one without the other. And that’s just it: If we think it through, if we get it right, then Lent is far more of a measure of our possibilities and treasures… the stuff we’re after… or think we are, and shouldn’t be confined or bound by looking at our sacrifices – the things we let go. Our sacrifices are merely the steps we measure in moving toward and opening ourselves to Love and Life itself. What’s lost… never was, and what’s gained …is all there ever really is.

So here’s a resolution: By all the powers of heaven, may we let this time and this life we live become a testament to the great things that small steps can work in our lives, and by the prayers of the Theotokos and all the saints, may God grant that it be so… that in all the small steps we make, we might move closer and ever closer to God… until one day… we find ourselves “suddenly” or as St. Mark might put it, “immediately” in the presence of His Kingdom.

Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

As this is the season of joyous renewal (Great Lent) together with awareness that the drifting accumulations in our lives have perhaps run other than expected, it’s clear that those things we once welcomed and treasured as the white snows of our childish delights and the promises of freedom for a day here and there, have perhaps darkened with time and the soot thrown off of our modern lives. So that now as the eye falls, we see these differently, and may seek after more authentic treasures with circumspect desires and the zeal born of our wading through twists and turns only to find there is indeed a light ahead.

So in pausing before our next step, perhaps it’s worth some effort to clear our view as in The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. The Canon offers self-deprecation and self-understanding without its common odd fellow – despair. And coming as it does within deep love, faith and confidence in the forthcoming requited love of the self-offerings of Christ, the promise of redemption, new life in resurrection, and all the treasures and joys of the Kingdom… perhaps there is something of use to keep in our hearts.

So it is a joy to find this musical rendering in English here. May you find the blessings of the Lenten Journey a time of joy and sweetness!

And FWIW, as we closed the Canon this Thursday night, my priest focused attention on the Kontakion at the end of Ode 6 as the heart of St. Andrew’s spirituality:

“My soul, my soul, arise! Why are you sleeping? The end is drawing near and you will be confounded. Awake, then, and be watchful that Christ our God may spare you, for He is everywhere and fills all things!”

As Father put it, “In the end, it’s not we who will “do” what needs to be done for our salvation, but Christ… who will lift us up where we are and as we are, and offer to do what’s needed, and save us. And in this, He will love us better than we love ourselves. In the accounts we find, if you look closely at St. Mary of Egypt, St. Paul, St. Peter, the Thief on the cross, …and so many others… what stands out is that no two are saved alike. You can’t just systematize and figure it out as if there’s a way to break the code… it just doesn’t work that way. Each course of salvation follows a different path even as ours will run as well. But the key to it all is that Christ gave each what they needed, led them where they needed to go… each found salvation by His hand, by His efforts… and not their own. Christ is the common thread, the Way, the Truth and the Life.”