Friday, February 3, 2012

One long journey done...another one to shortly begin

On November 15, we started fasting and praying fervently in anticipation of our Lord's Incarnation, taking on humanity in all ways. On December 23, we celebrated the Royal Hours which proclaimed the truth of the Old Testament Prophets. On December 24 and 25, we celebrated the actual feast of our Lord's coming in the flesh with the Magi who were there to adore Him. Our fasting changed to feasting uninterrupted for 12 more days.

On January 1, we celebrated our Lord's Circumcision in the Flesh, by which He showed Himself to be not a destroyer of the law but its fulfillment. With another short fast on January 5, we celebrated Theophany, our Lord's baptism in the Jordan at the hands of John the Foreunner, where creation and creator were united and the Trinity was made manifest. We gave especial attention to His Baptizer, John on January 7, the one who prepared the way for the Lord. We continued to celebrate Theophany for 8 more days.

During the rest of January we celebrated the memories of many great saints who proclaimed the mystery of the Incarnation and the dogma of the Trinity in Unity. Father such as as Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian vigorously defended the doctrine of the Trinity against the Arians. Sts. Cyril and Athanasius defended vigorously that our Lord was not two persons but one united in Christ and whom Mary did give birth to was indeed God and thus she was Theotokos. St. Maxiumus the Confessor refuted the evils of the Monothelete heresy, which was an offshoot of monophysitism and Arianism. All these heresies denied that Christ is BOTH truly God and truly human.

We also commemorated great ascetics such as St. Anthony the Great who lived the Christ-like life, renouncing the trappings of this world, emptying themselves of them as Christ emptied Himself of His Divinity, to commune more with God.

We celebrated great hymn writers and commentators on the Christ-like life and the Scriptures, notably St. John Chrysostom, St. John of Damascus and Sts. Ephraim and Isaac the Syrians. Their words continue to form the prayers for the repentant.

We commemorated great martyrs such as Sts. Barbara, Eugenia, Anastasia of Rome and others all of whom gave their life for the Bridegroom whom they loved because He loved us.

We celebrated again the Feast of the Meeting of our Lord where our Lord, again in fulfillment of the Law, was brought by his parents to the Temple in Jerusalem, where He was seen by the Righteous Simeon and Anna who both proclaimed that this child was the salvation which God had promised to the nation of Israel.

For more than 80 days, a little more than 1/5 of the total year, our devotion was centered on our Lord's incarnation. Tomorrow, Orthodox Christians begin yet another journey, the journey to the empty tomb of Christ and the Lord's sending of the Holy Spirit to proclaim what the Lord has done. This journey will be much more difficult as the events that we commemorate during the Great Lenten fast up through Holy Week, really do not mince what we are, what we have become because of our sin and our absolute need of God. Our fasting will be intense, our prayer even more fervent, the remembrance of the Patriarchs and Old Testament fathers who only had small foretastes of what would be realized in Christ will be at the center of our meditations.

Tomorrow, with the beginning of Triodion, we are called to repentance which can only be realized by the addition of what the publican had and the pharisee lacked: Humility. If we lack that single virtue, the next 120 days (the total time of the Triodio and the Pentecostarion), the next 1/3 of the year will be a difficult journey. Even if we should stumble, multiple times, five or ten times a day, there is always one more chance to get up.

Our Winter Pascha must give way to the Lenten Spring. Our feasting must give way to fasting. Our joy will now turn to sadness. But it will be a bright sadness for we already know the outcome: the Resurrection!

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