Devotional Thoughts for March 6, 2011/First Sunday of Great Lent
- A SEASON OF RENEWAL FOR ALL
Prophet Isaiah was emphatic in arguing that lent and fasting are not just pious
"obligatory Observances" for the people of God, but a trmendous tranforming
force.(Isaiah 58). Being mortal and foible, humans need periodic renewal of body,
mind and soul. And how is this posible?
The central theme of the preaching of Jesus Christ and earlier, of John the
Baptist, was the call to repentance and renewal. Those were the 'signs' of the
arrival and establishment of the Kingdom Of God. For us, a basic answer to the
question raised above is provided by the season of lent and fasting.
Basically the Great Lenten Season has some 'external' observations and
abstinances, which certianly have their 'internal' and obvious implications. We
are asked to abstain from certain food items and also to completly refrain from
eating and drinking for a certain time. Though these seem overt, in reality they
effect a lasting influence on our thinking and spirit. It may be obseved, felt
and appreciated that an element of discipline and moderation slowly creeps into
the one who keeps the lent. One special feature of the great lent is the "prostrations" which are made several times. Here is a telling message that all
the three elemets - body, mind and soul, do participate in this ardurous
process. The body and thinking may not have much involvement in an act in which
they do not participate. In Prostration, the body feels a bit of hard labour
leading to tiredness, but this one is one with a difference. Here the tiredness is welcome!
And the regulation of abstinece extends to other bodily activities and 'pleasures'. Not only that: we are enjoined to control our tongue as well. The
note in Isaiah specifically exhorts that lent is to accepted wholeheartedly as
the time to repair and make anew. Broken relationships are to be restored; the
injustice done has to be amended; the poor need to be taken care of, for the
rich are partly responsible for their poverty. The entire devotion- prayer
scedule of the Great Lent deals withthe issue of repentance and restoration of
the proper relationship with God and neighbour. This is common to all ancient churches.
Saint Paul talks about the "fruit" of the Spirit: the last in the catalogue is e
self-control.( Gal.5: 22) Fasting and repentance is the time tested means of self control!
It may be beneficial to recall that Jesus himself fasted for forty days and
nights before he started his public ministry. And his disciples emulated him in
this. St Gregorios of Parumala and his brother bishops assembled at Vettikkal
Dayara and fasted and prayed for forty days before they set out to take charge of their assigned dioceses in the Church.
Now going back to our ropening querry. How to realize a renewal in our personal
and family lives? Her we have a credible and trustworthy avenue - that of the
Great Lent. The Orthodox Churches world wide take the Lenten season seriously as
an opportunity for personal and community renewal and transformation.
Let us join the band of all who faithfully observe the Great Lent, and 2011
become unforgettable for us as the year of totan renewal and transformation,
wherin signs and ways of sin and evil in us are totally removed from us. Jesus who observed the Lent and fasting walks ahead of us. Let us follow him faithfully!
+ Irenaios thirumeni