February 2009 -  ...Something Old, Something New...


       We have a new President. His recent inauguration took place according to rules and guidelines set down many generations ago - something old. Within those procedures certain things changed - something new. That’s one of those “talking points” that have kept the media able to stay on the air all day long; Regan did it this way, George W. did it that way, and Obama is doing it his way... But fifty years from now, the media will look back and still note the small differences (something new) withing the traditional framework (something old) of the set policies and procedures of the inaugural process.

 

       This year, the great and holy season of Lent begins on March 2, with the preparation of Lent beginning in January. “January?? Are you sure?” Well, uh, yea, I’m sure. You see, the paschal cycle - something very, very old - has been calculated through at least 2099 since well before 1940. This year, Pascha will be celebrated on April 19 - something new this season. So, you back up for Holy Week, back up for Lent, back up for the Triodion, and back up for the weeks preceding the Triodion, and you get the Sunday of Zacchaeus on January 25. So by the time you read this, our time of preparation for Lent and Pascha will already have begun!

 

       Does that make you feel a bit rushed? Well guess what? That’s not something new... In fact, one of the great things about our liturgical tradition - something old - is that it constantly reminds us to prepare ourselves in heart, mind, and soul, and it reminds us every year to begin this process afresh. Isn’t it ironic, then, that each and every year, many are caught off guard when the preparation time begins? Maybe that is because we have allowed the tradition of our Orthodox practice to replace our relationship with Christ. The two of these work best when they work hand-in-hand. Something new for all of us this year, then, might be to put our relationship with Christ hand-in-hand with our traditional preparation. Then, the something old (Holy Tradition) would be constantly refreshed (something new) as it is supposed to be as we live our lives in constant and close communion with Christ. Now, how do we do that? Well, it begins by being reminded of something old...

 

       Preparation for Lent begins with the following Sundays... Zacchaeus, The Publican and Pharisee, The Prodigal Son, Meat Fare and Cheese Fare. The associated themes of these Sundays include: Desire, Humility, Repentance, Last Judgement, and Forgiveness. Check out this month’s Orthodoxy 101 article for more information in the preparation for Lent.

 

       The period of Lent is an ongoing time of personal reflection and spiritual cleansing. Great Lent begins on a Monday seven weeks before Easter. It is designated as a time of fasting imitating the Lord’s 40-day fast in the desert. One early tradition suggests that the reason for the period of 40 days is because that is the length of time between the creation of Adam and Eve until their disobedience of God’s command. Our Lord showed us that only with God’s help could this length of time be kept. And so the Church instructs us that we cannot keep the Great Fast without constant attention to God and seeking His presence. It is therefore appropriate for us to get ready for this time of spiritual cleansing.

 

       Don’t forget that the Lord walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Their fall was due to taking their eyes off of Him and listening to the tempting words of the serpent. In the same way today, we lack spiritual perfection when we allow the temptations of the world or our own thoughts to move us away from a Christ-centered life to a self-centered life. Remember Peter walking on the water? He performed the miraculous as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. He sank when he looked down at the waves and became afraid. And Jesus was standing right in front of him...

 

       The period of Lent can truly be something new for us if we focus our attention on our relationship with Christ through the means given us by the Church within our Holy Tradition. That is how we can use something old to experience something new. May your lenten experience be spiritually refreshing as you, too, take time to prepare for the miraculous.