|Lent : Traveling toward Easter|
In the Orthodox liturgical tradition, each major feast (Easter, Christmas…) is announced and prepared in advance and it is the same for Lent.
« Because the Church has a deep psychological understanding of human nature.
Grasping our lack of concentration and the dreadful « worldliness » of our life, it understands how we are unable to change quickly.
And thus, for a long period before the start of the effort peculiar to Lent, the Church centers our attention on the seriousness of this time period and invites us to meditate on its meaning »(The Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, Alexander Schmemann, St Vladimir's Seminary Press)
Preparing for Lent lets us acquire the necessary attitudes for the trip toward Easter.
The Oriental tradition suggests five Sundays of preparation and for each there is a special Gospel that underscores a basic aspect of repentance, of the road to conversion toward God :
It does not consist in the imposition of some external
obligations, but rather to soften our heart so that it is able to open
itself to the realities of the Spirit and experience a secret hunger and
thirst for communion with God.
The biblical basis for fasting is found in the story of original sin (Gen 3:1-24) and in that of the temptations of Jesus in the desert (Lk 4:1-13).
It is easy, even for those who are not very familiar with the Sacred Scriptures, to notice the many affinities between these two stories. What strikes one very strongly is the dynamic of « eating / not eating » (the word "eat" is used more than some fifteen times in the story of Genesis 3).
Adam, who is tempted by the serpent, eats and goes through the experience of « death »; Jesus is tempted by the devil, but He does not eat as He says : « Man does not live on bread alone ».
The practice of fasting invites us to reflect on man’s
true hunger, on the true food that gives life. The fact that one gives up
material food (incapable of giving life) is closely linked to the
perception that I need another food, which will give me eternal life.
This approach involves a descent into the obscurities of our heart, where our humanity is broken by the evil of mistrust, rivalry, jealousy, fear, egotism, and self-love.
Each of us is a broken creature, full of wounds, separated from God, others, and oneself because of sin.
To descend into the depths of our heart means to experience the helplessness, the inability to fight against the evil that dwells in us.
No one can free himself of this condition of being a slave by his own efforts.
Our freedom is always a gifted freedom, the salvation
of man always comes as a salvation that is offered and as a discovery of
the wounds of our heart. It is only by accepting light to be shed on these
sufferings that we can let God look after them with the balm of His love.
To be loved while not being judged, to be loved in our
human poverty, in our sinfulness, is the power that attracts us to God and
that is at the origin of our ascending and our joy.
(Theophane the Recluse )