Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

We Western Orthodox Christians begin our lenten journey today with the solemn words "Remember, Man, that thou art dust, and to dust shall thou return," while the priest spreads ashes on our foreheads in the form of a cross. The remembrance of death is what initiates our lenten journey, a journey that will end in the glorious celebration of the Resurrection, where Our Lord "trampled down death by death." In this is mirrored redemptive history, as we show our connection to our first ancestors-Adam and Eve-in their creation and fall, hear the sentence, and then walk the road of redemtption. This is a time for us to look into ourselves and see that divine drama played out in our own lives. We are given the opportunity to look into our hearts and root out those things that keep us from living abundant lives well-pleasing to Him who is the author of life. Lent is our summons, a clarion call, exhorting us to get busy with the business of heaven, for "dust thou art, and to dust shall thou return." There is no time for sin and death. Choose life!

Hear is a little wisdom from St. John Climacus that will help us get started on this journey:

God belongs to all free beings. He is the life of all, the salvation of all – faithful and unfaithful, just and unjust, pious and impious, passionate and dispassionate, monks and laymen, wise and simple, healthy and sick, young and old – just as the effusion of light, the sight of the sun, and the changes of the seasons are for all alike; “for there is no respect of persons with God.”-- Those of us who wish to go out of Egypt, and to fly from Pharaoh, certainly need some Moses as a mediator with God and from God, who, standing between action and divine vision, will raise hands of prayer for us to God, so that guided by him we may cross the sea of sin and rout the Amalek of the passions. That is why those who have surrendered themselves to God deceive themselves if they suppose that they have no need of a director. Those who came out of Egypt had Moses as their guide, and those who fled from Sodom had an angel. The former are like those who are healed of the passions of the soul by the care of physicians; these are they who come out of Egypt. The latter are like those who long to put off the uncleanness of the wretched body. That is why they need a helper, an angel, so to speak, or rather, one equal to an angel. For in accordance with the corruption of our wounds, we need a director who is indeed an expert and a physician.-- Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me; “We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?” I replied to them: “Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the divine services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.” Ladder of Divine Ascent

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