Thursday, March 17, 2005

Great Lent

Some notes and thoughts on Great Lent by Fr. Alexander Schmemann...sorry if it's long:
  • To think of Lent in terms of minimum obligation is to miss the point of Lent--namely, to carry us (slowly!) into the presence of God.
  • Use of the OT during Lent is a picture of the Church not only as having been fulfilled in the Kingdom, but "on the way" to the Kingdom, to Pascha.
  • Lent, when seen through the hymns in the Triodion (the "hymnal" of lenten services), "is a return to the 'normal' life, to that 'fasting' which Adam and Eve broke." Lent is greeted, therefore, as a spiritual spring, as a time of joy and life.
  • Re: total fasts on lenten Wednesdays and Fridays: these cause all things done or said during the day to be seen in the light of the coming communion in the evening.
  • On the Church's practice of preserving the Eucharist but not adoring it:
    • Affirms objective, lasting reality of the Real Presence in the gifts apart from their use as food.
    • Affirms said use as the primary objective of gifts, not as an end in and of themselves to be adored apart from consumption.
    • Christ in the gifts=Christ in the Church. Church=ekklesia=people=gifts, as we are also offered in the Liturgy along with the bread and wine ("Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon US, AND upon these gifts here present")...the Church as people, as Eucharist is not the end in and of itself, but it is always a passage...WE should always be a passage, to a communion with Christ, and indeed we are always, in Liturgy and out, this passage in and of ourselves.
  • Sin is not enumeration of transgressions of rules; it is a fall from an unimaginable height, from a glory so beyond all this. "[Sin] is in its roots the deviation of our love from its ultimate object."
  • Memory is transformed by Christ to defeat sin's breaking of time; our remembrance of Christ in the Eucharist, His Life during Holy Week etc., is done "not so much to understand as to witness" in reality and truth for ourselves--to really share in what once was, today.
  • "Christianity is above everything else expectation and preparation" for nothing other than Christ.
  • "Spiritual that little by little one begins to understand religion as a system of symbols and customs rather than...a challenge to spiritual renewal and effort."
  • Re: The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts: one is encouraged to attend at least one during Lent. "No reference to conditions of life, lack of time, etc. etc., are acceptable at this point, for if we do only that which easily 'fits' into the conditions of our lives, the very notion of lenten effort becomes absolutely meaningless."
  • Fasting makes us face the ultimate question: on what does my life depend? "Satan came to Adam in Paradise; he came to Christ in the desert. He came to two hungry men and said, 'Eat, for your hunger is the proof that you depend entirely on food, and that your life is in food.' Adam believed and ate; Christ rejected that temptation and said, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by God.'" Our fasting is an entrance into Christ's obedience, a liberation from the total dependance of food and this world, a realization (with one's whole being and life) that the life we still must ultimately sustain with food is to be done in and for God, and not for material things as an end in themselves.
  • All hunger is ultimately hunger for God, but is mere suicide apart from connection with God through prayer.
  • Our ascetical efforts will most likely fail from time to time, but we must not despair, for God tells us to change; it would be prideful to say that we know better than God, that we cannot change. "Between holiness and disenchanted cynicism lies...patience," and not only patience in general, but "patience, first of all, with ourselves."
  • Cultivating a lenten lifestyle:
    • At home: cultivate silence, reduce as much as you can TV, PC, music, etc.
    • To fill time formerly filled with the above, pray (obviously), cultivate reading of great works (not necessarily spiritual ones), listening to time-honored music, etc.
    • Reexamine approach to job: "There is no job, no vocation which connot be transformed--be it only a little!--in terms not of greater efficiency or better organization, but in those of human value."
    • Control your speech, for it is powerful. By doing so we "recover its seriousness and its sacredness...Ultimately men are converted to God not because someone was able to give brilliant explanations, but because they saw in him the light, joy, depth, seriousness and love which alone reveal the presence and the power of God in the world."

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