The Paul Reveres of Orthodoxy are passing through town: the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee (yesterday), this week which is FAST FREE (!), the Sunday of the Prodigal Son (2/19), etc. These are all announcements to us that the “end is near”. What end? The end of the routine of winter’s spiritual slothfulness (do I speak only for myself?) wherein I have grown lazy and self-indulgent in the pleasures of much food, the warmth of a cozy bed, and thoughts most centered on “what about me?”
These weeks hang a flashing yellow warning light over the highway of our routine life, and soon we will find ourselves at the crossroads of self and selflessness, first and last, greatest and least. More so, we will once again find ourselves at the intersection of salvation and self. Self so often seems to have the ‘best’ short term benefits, but ends in death—spiritual and actual. But will I choose salvation? Will I choose Christ? He stands at the door, always knocking. Will I let Him in? (Revelation 3:20)
Great Lent is the Christian School of Repentance, the academy which teaches us—through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the reading of Scripture—precisely both who we are (actually) and who we are called to be. If we don’t think we need a doctor, why go to the hospital—or as St. John puts it “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8ff).
Will we face the reality that we desperately need spiritual surgery? Will we finally submit to doctor’s orders? Consider some of the hymns we sing this time of year, and let’s help each other onto the stretchers!
"Brothers, let us not pray like the Pharisee; he who exalts himself will be
humbled! Let us prepare to abase ourselves by fasting; Let us cry aloud with the
voice of the Publican. O God, forgive us sinners!"
"The weight of my transgressions burdens my eyes; I cannot lift my gaze to the heights of heaven, O Lord! Accept me in repentance, as Thou didst accept the Publican. Have mercy on me, O Savior!"
"Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion grant me release from my falls."