We're half way there on our journey to Pascha. Encouragement comes from various places, one in particular was from the blog of Fr. Peter-Michael Preble, entitled "Archbishop Nicolae's Meditation on the Sunday of the Holy Cross." Please find it here.
The instruction comes forward for us believer's "whoever wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mark 8:34) Once again my thoughts go toward fasting and alms giving, attending many services and other obligations required by Orthodox Christians at this time of the year. Then again, I reread the scripture and the word take up hits me squarely in the face. Everyone has a cross, some have more than other's it seems, but take up is the difference...It means acknowledging that you have a cross, and that you cannot bear it alone. Admitting your shortcoming is significant. The other word, "deny himself," because we live in a society that says me and my first, is very hard to achieve.
This lent admit it, your not perfect, you need not look far. And, look around, there are many who need only a fraction of what you have, if you would only see them. Denying yourself means becoming aware of other's suffering. And that can only be achieved when it's not all about you.
Most people think denying yourself during the fast is not to have meat, or dairy and to some extent, there is wisdom in abstaining from foods leading to a greater end. Yet, if you do not grow from that discipline, you've missed the point.
We all have crosses in our life, but what is The Cross in your life? You'll know it when you are on your knees praying for God's help. But here's the key, Victory through the Cross. We are not participants in agonizing, and self mortification, which expresses more of a lack of faith, but in the "joy at all times" because "through the Cross, joy has come into all the world." That joy because of the Victory "is" our "emphasis." It is the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Good Shepherd gave His life for His sheep, in order that we have life in abundance. "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10).
If you are gloomy or depressed it is more of an acknowledgement of not having put on Christ, who commands us to "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil.4:4). The Kontakion of the Cross, expresses well the meaning of living the victory of the Lenten-Spring.
The Kontakion of the Cross
"No Longer does the flaming sword guard the gate of Eden.
For a Marvelous quenching is come upon it, even the Tree of the Cross.
The sting has been taken from death,
and the victory from hades.
And, You my Savior has appeared unto those in Hades, saying:
ENTER AGAIN INTO PARADISE."
As a footnote taken from the Orthodox Study Guide, on Page 459, Phil.4:4, "Paul often uses the word always in relation to prayer. Rejoicing always is a fruit of perseverance in daily prayers."
This is a time when we slow down and observe and reflect and change. We discern and hold fast to the beliefs we have received. We are tested, and in trying not be misled we move forward in the journey toward Pascha.
(Thessalonians 5:16-22) "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."
And from the Kontakion of Meatfare Sunday, "then deliver me from the unquenchable fire
and make me worthy to stand at Your right hand, O Righteous Judge."
The Archbishop ends by saying "May the Lord make us worthy of His Glorious Resurrection."
Yesterday, I watched the movie "Saving Private Ryan," the ending gets me every time. The elderly man, visiting the grave of a fallen soldier, asks his wife if he has been a good man. Then, he steps back saluting the person responsible for his life, having given up his own for him and our country. Before he died he whispered, "earn it." That is what love is.
We do not have to "earn salvation," it is a free gift from Christ himself, our true and only God...."Through the cross joy has come into all the world."
On Holy Thursday, we will read on page 319 from Holy Week and Service Book, "Lord, on the Cross You tore up the writ of reckoning against us, numbered among the dead, You bound up its tyrant, freeing all from its bonds by Your resurrection. This has illuminated us, loving Lord, and so we cry out to You. "Remember us also, Savior, in Your Kingdom."
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