Todays scripture: Eze 18:1 – 4, Phil 4: 1 – 9, John 17:9 – 19
I do not think that I am alone when I am a bit concerned with the spiritual state that the church (small c) is in. I think we all recognize that Christs body is afflicted. This becomes very clear in the season of Lent. We see more clearly that the pain Christ suffers approaching Golgotha is related to the pain the Church suffers by the hands of this world. This sense of connection between the Church and Christ has for many Christians been lost. Under the influence of individualism many Christians have chosen the easy way of deciding what is best for themselves. We do not humble ourselves to a spiritual father, we do not go to confession with a contrite heart. We do not fast as an act of repentance and we do not do our good deeds in secret. We want people to conform to our plan rather than accommodating other people’s need. The fundamental understanding that the Church is still Christs body is disappearing as fast as the Sacraments are made into mere ritual. The sacramental understanding of the Church, that God is present because He is Presence, needs to be rediscovered in many churches if they hope to live truly incarnational lives. Christ proclaims: “This is my body” not “This was my body”.
Lent reminds us of that the physical and the spiritual is connected. If we fast we get hungry. If we get hungry enough we may become irritated. When we deprive ourselves from physical things we allow the spiritual world to take a bigger part of our being. Thus it is very important to fill the “empty” spaces with the correct things. You need to fill your emptied soul with prayer, with the desire to draw closer to Christ. Only then will you be protected from the in filling of bad spiritual influence. The physical state of the world stands in absolute relation to the spiritual climate it is in. The two realities are two sides of the same coin. Lent shifts things around so that you can see that your physical habits are an effect of your spiritual state.
If we look at the westernized world we see that it is a gluttonous society. The very core of values is based on a hunger for more. This hunger has its origin in something good. We hunger for peace. We are yearning for true happiness and joy. But today our hunger is misplaced. Today we strife to satisfy our hunger with “stuff”. We try to fill ourselves with houses, food, sex, adventure, youth and knowledge to the point of self-destruction (looking at the statistics of human slavery, suicide, sexual trafficking and spousal abuse we are closer then we think). This has brought a great unbalance in the world. As fast as we fill our stomaches here, as fast people die out of hunger on the other side of the globe. Why do you think many contemporary churches ignores Lent? because it is hard to motivate towards people who has misplaced their hunger. They think they will die if they have to give their addictions up. We live in a consumer based society. We think that if we can not buy and consume we wont be happy. Yet we see unhappy, rich people everywhere and still we buy the lie (literally).
No, try the Lenten way. Eat of the bread that can never be consumed. Eat of the bread that is broken but never divided. Continue this 40 day journey and you will receive the heavenly manna. Our hunger for more has divine origin, Lent helps us see Who that origin is. Lent help us to take away all unnecessary stuff that blocks our way to the Source of Life. Lent helps us to cut through the lies that keeps us in prison in the dark cell, and to see the Light. Lent helps us to see that it is in giving things up rather than getting things that we find peace.
“Come O faithful, Let us perform the works of God in the light; Let us walk honestly as in the day. Let us rid ourselves of unjust accusations against our neighbors so that we place no stumbling block in their way. Let us put aside the pleasures of the flesh so that we may increase the grace of our souls. Let us give bread to those in need. Let us draw near in repentance to Christ and say: O, our God! Have mercy on us!”
– The Orthodox Triodion