The Fast has Begun...
Penned 17 years ago. 4:18 Reading Time.
Some people around the net have noticed that I have been silent lately.
This has to do with a number of factors, not the least of which is that my posts have been less and less impactful and more trite. This coupled with a new contract over at my dayjob and the beginning of Great and Holy Lent I have precious little time to devote to this medium.
While I hope to rectify the first of my points, I don't for-see the other two becoming less of an issue anytime soon (in the case of point two, namely my dayjob I hope and pray that it becomes an ever increasing reason for less time here). As for Great and Holy Lent, a facet of my asceticism for this year will be less blind devotion to the computer and more time devoted to prayer and contemplation. I will strive to use this blog for these days to share the thoughts, insights and experiences that I experience during my first season of Lent.
That being said I would like to now speak of my first real taste of the Lenten Season and the impact on my life that has already been made. Yesterday, Sunday March 9th, the 37th Sunday after Pentecost was Forgiveness Sunday. On this day the Church has given us the Expulsion of Adam (and eve ladies) from Paradise to contemplate; also known as Cheesefare Sunday.
O Master, teacher of Wisdom, bestower of virtue, who teaches the thoughtless and protects the poor: strengthen and enlighten my heart. O Word of the Father, let me not restrain my mouth from crying to Thee: Have mercy on me, a transgressor, O merciful Lord.
- Kontakian Tone 6
It is on this evening during Vespers, after the Prokiemenon, the point at which the old day is retired and the new day begins, that the vestments are changed and the Church shifts into the anticipation of Pascha. It is also during this service known as Forgiveness Vespers that the Orthodox Church does something so profound and moving that it is not really possible to convey through this impersonal medium the emotional, spiritual and physical impact one experiences.
After the service my wife and I sat in our car and reflected on what had happened. We both kept coming back to the same thing; Father David. Basically the form of this service is thus: the Priest begins by bowing to the congregation, asking for our forgiveness and then performing a prostration. For those of you unfamiliar with the particulars of a prostration, basically it follows this pattern: first you make the sign of the cross, then fall to your knees, and then finally you fall forward so that your forehead is on the floor and you hands are palm down, you then rise again to standing position.
Now just think for a moment what that must feel like; seeing your Minister, Preacher, Insert-Clergy-Here humbling themselves before your assembled parish. Of course it doesn't stop there, one by one each of the assembled come before Fr. David and perform a prostration and ask for his forgiveness. Next it is my turn and after I ask for his forgiveness, reciting my name my Priest, my Confessor and Spiritual Father one of the finest men I have ever known falls on his face before me asking me to forgive him.
There are no words for what the heart and mind go through at that time; Even now I can remember the urge I had to protest that he had no need to do this, surely I would but not he, in my own ignorance and unworthiness I have committed countless trespasses in word and deed.
It is at times like these that through grace and the Holy Spirit that I see things a little more clearly. Father David is a man, like me; he deals with the damage dealt him by sin, death and the devil just as I do. If he can do it, then there is hope for me, that I might be half the man, husband and father that he is.
And of course the even more heartening thing is that there are dozens of examples in my parish of men and women who are treading this path in different stages yes, but still moving forward towards Christ; they are all my guideposts on the way to greater Communion with the Architect of Reality. I then move onto the next person and on until I join the circle at the end. As the last of the parish work thier way down around the circle asking for and giving forgiveness Father begins to sing the Pashcal hymn:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
- Troparion of Pascha - Byzantine, Plagal First Tone
That is indeed where we are going; in the long weeks ahead if and when you find yourself wearying of the race, stop and remember where it is you are heading and what awaits you at the finish line.