Beginning. Making a start. Launching an effort.
What are the things that we as human beings do when we set out to accomplish something? Let us say, for example, that we are planning "the vacation of a lifetime", a journey to see places and things we've longed to see for many years. How would we go about the task of planning such a thing, and what would be the first things essential to assure success in attaining our goal?
For you see, it is that goal that brings focus to every action that we will take.
And so we begin by laying into order all the things necessary to achieve that goal. We start by study - we seek information about modes of travel, places we might pass through that could add to the joy of the journey. We search out costs, maximizing the use of our resources in the trip, but not 'skimping' because, after all, this is the "vacation of a lifetime", and it needs to be as perfect as we can make it. We look for travel guides, not the cheapest, but those who have reviews from others who have journeyed attesting to their benefits, to the degree to which their participation in the journeys of others. We would have complete and total knowledge of every aspect of this "vacation of a lifetime" EXCEPT for what we would experience when we actually get TO our destination.
What better explanation is there, what better 'analogy', to our living our lives as we "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness"? (Mat 6:33)
For us, the "mode of travel" is our Faith. Read Hebrews Chapter 11 to understand what "by faith" means to us, how it is "by faith" that all things are accomplished. St. Paul goes so far as in attesting to the faith of so many of the forefathers that he say about them, "of whom the world was not worthy." (Heb 11:38)
Those of us who have embraced Holy Orthodoxy therefore "travel toward the Kingdom" by our Faith. Holy Orthodoxy is our "ship" that carries us toward our destination, the Kingdom of Heaven. Even this analogy is not an accident, for many Orthodox churches are built in the shape of an ark, the ship of Noah which saved the souls of those set aside by God before the flood. And the book that contains our living instructions, the Canons of the Church, is known as "The Rudder" - the implement by which a ship is guided, steered upon stormy seas.
We add to our "journey" those places and events which make the journey more than it would be otherwise - the calendar of the Church, the Twelve Major Feasts which are in and of themselves joyous events, and they sustain us in our joy was we travel the seas of temptation, still seeking our "goal", our coming to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Our "travel guides" are the Holy Fathers. Their teachings, their writings, their wisdom, their having lived and walked the paths that lay before us now attests to their qualifications as being sound and proper guides for us as we begin our journeys.
The only thing that we cannot comprehend is the total joy and bliss that will exist upon our arrival at our destination.
And so we set out on the journey through this year's Great Fast. This is a "little journey" - with the goal of experiencing that joy we'll see at our Lord's Pascha. The planning is also a microcosm of our life's goal of attaining the Kingdom. So what is our plan for this present journey?
As we enter this year's Great Fast, we begin with yesterday's Forgiveness Sunday Vespers, where we prayed these words:
Let us hasten to humble the flesh by abstinence, as we set out on the God-given course of the Holy Fast, and with prayers and tears let us seek our Lord and Savior. Laying aside all memories of evil, let us cry aloud: 'We have sinned against You, O Christ our King; save us as You saved the men of Nineveh in the days of old, and in Your compassion make us sharers in Your heavenly Kingdom.
Our plan is outlined for us by the Holy Church. We have exalted our flesh, fed it, overfed it. Our bodies have become our masters. It is time for the spirits to be elevated, to "humble the flesh" by abstaining from food. But we also must humble the ego by abstaining from that which feed it - gossip, idle talk, vain thoughts and pursuits, reading things that do not profit the spirit.
Our plan includes intensified prayer, and not just any prayer, but prayer which searches out the inner depths of our hearts, sheds God's divine Light on the darkest corners, so that we can find and root out that which is unclean and remains within. This often brings us to tears, recognizing things we've forgotten, finding things we didn't know were there. The Holy Fathers teach that our tears of repentance are another baptism, washing away the sins which caused these tears to flow from our eyes.
We do these things to seek our Lord and Savior. And as we confess our sins to Him, we know His promise to forgive all we confess. In this certainty, we lay aside all memories of the evil we have done, for it is wiped clean by His forgiveness, and in the joy that comes from this knowledge, we admit those sins freely, easily, openly, joyously.
The reference to "the men of Nineveh" comes from Jonah Chapter 3, where the prophet finally accepts God's divine will and prophecies to the people of Nineveh that God will destroy their city because of their sins. The book reveals,
They repented. They fasted. They no doubt prayed. And, the result was,
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
Our yearly journey to Pascha is made its best when we take part in the fullness of the Church during the Fast. Our participation in the services helps our planning, fulfills our desire for maximizing the benefits of the trip, gives us the guidance to be had from the Holy Fathers through the hymnology of the Church.
This is our promise for this year's "journey" within the Great Fast! The Fast began yesterday with this reference to Jonah. Interestingly enough, this passage is read as one of the Old Testament Readings during the Holy Saturday Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil - the Liturgy at which the Resurrection of our Lord is first announced with the hymn, "Arise, O God, judge the earth, for to You belong all the nations!"
It is with the greatest joy that we invite you to journey the Great Fast with us at St. Herman's! See our web page at www.sainthermanchurch.org for the calendar of the week!
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio
This blog is a partial compilation of the messages, texts, readings, and prayers from our small mission community. We pray that it will be used by our own people, to their edification. And if you happen by and are inclined to read, give the glory to God!
The blog title, "Will He Find Faith on the Earth?" is from Luke 18:8, the "Parable of the Persistent Widow." It overlays the icon of the Last Judgment, an historical event detailed in Matthew Chapter 25, for which we wait as we pray in the Nicean Creed.
We serve the Holy Orthodox cycle of services in contemporary English. Under the omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Patriarchal Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia, we worship at 5107 Darrow Road in Hudson, Ohio (44236). If you are in the area, please join us for worship!
Regular services include:
Sunday Divine Liturgy 10AM (Sept 1 - May 31)
930AM (June 1 - Aug 31)
Vespers each Saturday 6PM
We pray that you might join us for as many of these services as possible!