As we enter the second week of Great Lent I feel like a great life lessons of the “best laid plans” going south.
This is my first experience of the Great Fast since my ordination as Deacon, and I had planned to be present at the majority of the first week’s services. This didn’t eventuate as global meetings and changes in role made the first week a time of catching sleep in between work activities. Sure, there were moments that could be grabbed to read parts of the Great Canon at home, but hardly enough to grab hold of my heart. Today as I flew to Dubai for a meeting I read through this incredible penitential work and was torn between regret of time lost and desire for a greater feeling of closeness to Christ in this fast.
This is the struggle I face now; not the struggle of the early centuries of Christendom where the sword or noose was the response to ones faith, but the fighting for the time to assign to my faith that is “meet and right” for an average Orthodox Christian, let alone one with the responsibility of service.
But simply crying at the world is not the answer. We have to take the time to plan in this current universe. While I have made a significant effort to do such over the last months, the fast came upon me with swiftness I was not ready for.
On a positive note, experiencing the rite of forgiveness for the first time as clergy was an intense experience. My legs reminded me of this experience well into the first week of the fast, but the sincere penitential character of that service is one thing I am holding onto into this fast.
There will be more travel for me next week, so I am pulling all stops on the gadget front, making sure as much Lenten literature (services, prayers, podcasts and spiritual books) are loaded onto the phone and kindle so there is no chance for spare time to be wasted. This is my life-boat but unfortunately still keeps me away from my parish, where the true heart of the fast lives; the communion of a group of Christians growing in Christ towards the great feast of Pascha.
Some planning has payed off, I will be able to take a small period of time for our yearly trip to monasteries 5-6 hours south of where we live. This has been a true oasis in the Fast for me the last two years, beginning with the complete absence of phone coverage 20 mins away from the site, through to spending times with those who have dedicated their lives to prayer in a setting that shows the beauty of God’s creation.
May you all find the answers to your struggles during this time of the fast.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.