I am excited about this weekend. Sunday is Forgiveness Vespers and the beginning of the greatest period of reflection and renewal in the Orthodox Church, Great Lent. I half jokingly believe my excitement will die down after drool myself silly over the umpteenth Hardee’s Monster Burger commercial. But, this is a time that I have been looking forward to. Last year, I participated as an outsider looking in. This year, I am a part of the brothers and sisters in Christ who will ask each for and forgive each other with the kiss of peace. Along with the fasting, we will devote ourselves to being more intentional in our prayers and giving our time and talents as well as our treasures to the less fortunate.
While many non-denominational churches are embracing fasting in some form or another during different parts of the year, Great Lent is the central fast in Eastern Christianity. Antiochians and Greeks may observe the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas) on a different date than our Slavic brethren. Ethiopians celebrate Timket (Epiphany or Theophany) more elaborately than Armenians. But, as the great feast of Pascha (the Resurrection of our Lord, Easter) is the same through out the Orthodox world. The forty days before the great feast is a time we prepare our hearts, minds, and souls to celebrate our Lord’s conquest of death by His death and the renewal of life by His Life victoriously restored.
I am embracing this great season not only because it is my first time doing this as an Orthodox believer. I can’t help but to believe that Lent is a preparation for me to do some good work in the church. Friends inside and out of Orthodoxy have asked if I am interested in becoming a priest. Slow down, it will be about five years before I would be considered for seminary in the Antiochian jurisdiction and even then, a M.Div does not necessarily mean instant ordination into the priesthood. Looking at the complexity of of Divine Liturgy and other services and remembering the challenges I had as a Baptist pastor, I am in no rush to assume that office again, if ever.
One of the readers has approached me about chanting during Matins. The head of our Christian Education Dept. asked if I was interested in teaching an adult Sunday school class. I accepted and am waiting on a date. I am also a part of the parish evangelism group and will soon announce the inaugural meeting of the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black/VA Chapter. So, I am and am about to get some things done.
But, I can’t help to believe there is something deeper to be done and starting with myself. I have some sins that I kinda swept under the carpet and made more than a few excuses for. They need to be resolved. Despite my reputation as an easy going guy, I do have issues with insecurity. My loud voice and friendly personality hides the fact that I am often lonely and withdrawn. More than I care to admit of my personality looks like a bungee jump gone wrong. So, if I am going to be this wonderful chanter, reader, evangelist, teacher, organizer, and (dare I say) priest; I have quite a bit to work on. I pray that God will cause me to dig deep within myself to recognize my flaws and begin managing them if not correcting them all together.
The Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian is traditionally said many times throughout each day during Great Lent, in addition to our daily prayers.
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. (+)
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to your servant. (+)
Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed from all ages to all ages. Amen. (+)
(The “(‘+)“ indicates that those praying make a deep bow or prostration at this point.)