Every year the Church leads her people through the cycle of celebrating our Lord’s birth, life, death and resurrection. There is a good reason for this: its purpose is to provide, each year anew, the opportunity to unite ourselves to the life of Christ and to sanctify and transform our own lives through the wonderful reality of the divine presence. This, however, makes a rather important assumption: it assumes that we — we who are, or who at least should be, reborn in Christ — are following the path on which our Church and our Lord are leading us, and that we are truly striving to draw nearer to Christ every moment of our lives. Now here we must ask a few questions:
Are we, as a community and as individuals, striving our utmost to be followers and disciples of Christ?
Are we constantly aware of the presence of our Lord in our lives and that everything we do, say and think are His concern?
Do we make a conscious effort to keep our spiritual life from becoming nothing more than a compartment of our wider life?
Is Christ at the centre and at the head of our lives? Or does He have his own little space hidden away somewhere?
Do we follow the injunction of St. Paul and “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything” (I Thess. 5:16ff.)?
These are serious questions, but we all must ask them and use them as a means to assess the value and strength of our faith. If we cannot answer them all in a positive manner and in a joyful attitude of heart, then something is wrong.
The Apostle tells us: “So then, if you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on things of the earth” (Colossians 3:1f.). At Pascha instead of the Trisagion Hymn, we will hear the words, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, ye have put on Christ. Alleluia!” By Baptism into our Lord, we have been transformed, we have been brought under the yoke of Christ, we have become His servants, and this is a reason to cry out “Alleluia!” Putting on Christ, becoming in Him a new creation, being joined to his Body, is a privilege, a blessing, a cause for joy. There is no burden here; there are no inconveniences or heavy tasks laid upon us by our faith; there is no binding or suppression of our wills. There is only the freedom given to us by Christ, a freedom experienced by all who truly accept Him as Messiah, Redeemer, Saviour, and Liberator.
The Great Lent again provides us with the opportunity to renew our allegiance and our commitment to our Lord. It is so easy for our faith to become weak and lukewarm, so easy for our prayer life to falter and stumble, so easy to be drawn away from Christ by the cares and attractions of the world. So often we arrange the priorities of our life in such a way as to accommodate first our own interests, and as a result our faith is forced to take a secondary role. And then what happens? Then we become not the zealous and joy-filled Christians — and even martyrs — of the early years of the Church, but moderate and modern Christians, ones who approach faith with a more reasonable attitude, without the extremism and misguided fervor which can take over and — as is sometimes thought — turn otherwise sensible people into ridiculous fanatics. Yet we might do well to remember than the most joyful and revered saints are those who are often called Holy Fools. But their folly was rewarded as the “wisdom” of the world can never be — with the eternal presence of God and with the joy that no human mind can even hope to imagine.
We are many centuries removed from the world of early Christianity, and it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the zeal of the early centuries is no longer needed or fashionable. The faith now can be modernized, watered down, and lived in a manner more compatible with the world around us. But this is not so. Two millennia ago our Lord rose from the dead, and not only in time, but in eternity. His Resurrection is one of the great truths of all Creation and it will never cease to be the foundation of true Christian faith. We must live our faith today not in some kind of watered down, modernized, and rationalized manner, but in the strength and stability contained in that great statement of Pascha: “Christ is Risen!”
The Great Lent gives us the time and the opportunity to renew and revitalize our lives in Christ. It gives us the chance to put into proper perspective all those things which may stand in the way of our journey towards God and eternal Life. Therefore, learn to keep the fast with joy and thanksgiving, let go of all those things which have no real meaning or value, turn to God in the joyful peace of prayer. Journey towards the Pascha of the Lord singing even now the triumphal song to Christ, from He is even now bringing us over from death to life, from, earth to the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. Even now as we follow our Lenten journey, we can peacefully whisper to ourselves the wonderful truth of our Lord’s victory. And soon we will shout for all to hear: “Christ is Risen!”
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