In the thick of Holy Week now in the Orthodox Church. This always happens to me every year when we get to this moment. So many impressions. So many rich and deep spiritual conversations between my soul and the voice of the Church in the divine services. If those of you in my readership have never been to an Orthodox Church, NOW is the time. Between now and the celebration of Pascha this coming Sunday, you will experience the Lord’s suffering, death, and resurrection in a way you never thought possible.
This Wednesday’s service contains one of the most memorable characters of Holy Week, the woman Mary Magdalene, caught in many sins that broke open a very costly jar of ointment and anointed Jesus’ feet in an extreme act of repentance. The hymn that is sung to her at the end of the service is a masterpiece of repentance. Her deep humility and repentance provide a foil to the betrayal and hard-heartedness of Judas, but she also provides hope to those of us who by this point in Great Lent feel very far gone. Read these words of her hymn and feel drawn into her great story:
It always comes as a bit of a shock that morphs quickly into mild panic when we hear, Let us set out with joy upon the season of the fast and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our soul and cleanse our flesh; as we fast from food let us abstain also from every passion. (From Lord I Have Cried verses, Sunday of Forgiveness)
I think to myself, “Great Lent is already here? I barely just finished my Christmas ham, and my taxes aren’t done.” Lent seems at first like the last and most recent thing on a very long to-do list, another obligation in a never-ending stream of necessary tasks. Continue reading →
Heard the Hymn of Cassiani last night in church and today on a wonderful youtube mix. What a profound expression of repentance and grace. May he who rose from the dead, Christ our True God, grant us the same grace, mercy, and forgiveness as we near the day of his most glorious resurrection from the dead:
“O, sweety, there is nothing to forgive.” How many times has our attempt to make amends with another we have offended end in this kind of dismissive, shrugging off of responsibility which is supposed to help the offended party feel better? Yet, when any of us takes a deeper look at ourselves, what the twelve steppers call making a “searching and fearless moral inventory”, we find that not only are we filled with sinful thoughts, inclinations, motives and actions, but ignoring and sweeping them under the rug of forgetfulness will only make matters worse, not better. Those not practiced in the Christian art and divine gift of forgiveness may be tempted to dispense with it as a necessary step to restoring peace in human relationships, but this morning’s Gospel lesson makes it clear that it is a non-negotiable. Continue reading →