We are now at the end of the fourth week of Lent. Time is passing quickly, and soon Great Week, the heart of the Christian year and the great action of redemption and renewal, will be upon us. As the time grows closer we should be preparing more and more earnestly every day and becoming more and more aware of the tremendous magnitude of the Pascha.
How well are we preparing, both as individuals and as a community, for the Pascha? Will each one of us be ready ti meet our Lord in all the fullness of his Resurrection? Each person must answer that for himself or herself. All of us need to make every effort in private prayer, using the services of the Church, reading the Scripture (particularly at this time the Gospels). Each year we are given the opportunity of meeting our Lord in the Pascha, and we need to take full advantage of that opportunity.
This coming week, the fifth week, is particularly important in helping us to ready ourselves. On Wednesday there will the the full Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete. This will provide us with a chance to encounter our own shortcomings and to realize how far distant we are from God. And then — as if in answer to our human dilema — on Thursday evening we will celebrate the Annunciation. The Annunciation is one of the most important festivals of the Church, for it is the proclamation and the commencement of the great work of redemption. In her acceptance of the will of God, Mary becomes the Theotokos and reverses the pride and stubbornness of human nature. Participation in the celebration of the Annunciation is not something to be taken lightly, for if we are to experience the fullness of our Lord’s grace, we need to be there to hear the Virgin say, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord. be it unto me according to Thy will.” In and the Virgin’s response to God, we too must make our response. On Friday, the day immediately following the Annunciation. We chant the Great Akafist and thus proclaim and glorify the Incarnation. No Orthodox Christian should miss this opportunity, and all are invited and even urged to be present. Set aside the cares and responsibilities and pleasures of this world at least for a while, and “seek those things which are above.”
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