First Week of Great Lent
I grew up near one of the best amusement parks in the country, or so the advertisements boldly proclaimed. As a child, I envied the houses we passed along the way as we started getting closer to the place of our yearly pilgrimage of fun. How did these folks get so lucky to live so close to a place where perpetual thrills were to be had almost 24/7? Surely a place with this much mindless entertainment must be like living in a virtual paradise. Yet my youthful impressions lasted only as long as the day, and my disappointment in the end came from the fleeting and exhausting nature of this exhilaration. For a steady diet of cotton candy and deep fat fried fun begins in sweetness but turns very quickly into bitterness.
I recalled this youthful impression recently as we traveled to an indoor water park affiliated with a major US amusement park chain. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. Now as we passed the houses and met the staff of this local site of amusement, I felt pity instead of envy. I saw exhaustion behind the happy facade their employer asked them to portray, and behind all the plastic furniture and the over-stimulating pop music piped into every crevice of the building was a dull and debilitating monotony. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity; there is nothing new under the sun... It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
Now as we begin the season of the fast of Great Lent, I reflect on the true purpose of our life. In a land of a-musement (literally the word means “not thinking”), the goal is fun without ceasing and the destination is Disneyland where the imagination is encouraged to indulge itself unrestrained. But for the Christian, St. Paul says, the goal is prayer without ceasing and the destination is the Kingdom of Heaven which we can only attain by denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Christ. May He who deigned to be tempted 40 days in the wilderness for our salvation, Christ our true God, teach us how to see past the cheap thrills of this world and long for life with Him in paradise.
Please forgive and pray for me a sinner, and may our good God have mercy on us and forgive us all. Veliki Post! Kali Tessarakosti! Blessed Lenten journey to you all!