Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Four Weeks before Great Lent

The icons for the first four weeks before
Great Lent officially begins are:

The Publican and the Pharisee.
Sunday of the Tax Collector and Pharisee:
Beautifully we are shown how we need humility 
to be saved and that prayer is not telling God
a list of what we proudly think we do right
but instead simply that we realize our state before God,
our spiritual poverty, our sin, our illnesses
and ask God for mercy.

The Prodigal Son and his Father
Sunday of the Prodigal Son (from the Parable):
Having realized our state before God, 
that we have wasted all that we have been given in 
distraction, in poor choices, in even giving ourselves over to
a harlot, seeing that we have loved ourselves instead of loving God,
we realize we are the prodigal and need to make our way home
to our Father...
Instructive also is the realization of how we are often also the 
un-compassionate older brother who refuses to rejoice with
the salvation of his younger brother who has come home:
it is safe to say that for the most of us 
we are not only the prodigal but still sadly the self-righteous older brother
who does not see his own spiritual poverty,
demonstrated if only by his lack of compassion... 
Wonderfully the Father is compassionate, is waiting for us,
runs to us when we turn towards Him in repentance.
He waits to heal us, restore us to His family and He loves us.
Deep hope is given for repentance! 

The Final Judgment
Sunday of Meat (the Final Judgment):
A sober realization that what we do on this earth
will be judged one day and that we truly need 
God's mercy and that we need to 
examine our lives...
are we seeing others as a Christ
 that we are to love, to serve?
What will Christ say to us one day?
It is all the more reason for us to learn to pray:
Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner!

Adam and Eve's expulsion for Paradise
Sunday of Cheese (Adam's expulsion from Paradise):
We realize that we too have been expelled from Paradise:
This world is not our home ~ it is fallen from Paradise...
Heaven or Hell is made in part daily by us
in our hearts and in our world:
Great Lent could be seen as a journey towards
the only thing that can restore Paradise to us:
Christ's Cross and Christ's Resurrection.
Many of us are wondering this Lent how we can make this journey.
Great Lent is often a time of great trials for us,
as well as for seeking to see where we really are:
in great need of God's mercy and often, we realize, far from our
Heavenly Father and poor in our love of His Son,
Our Saviour Christ.
Here is a small list of ideas I have come up with for these 4 weeks
before Great Lent begins...
(my apologies for not having this ready 4 weeks, 
it's just how it has happened...)
FYI, the headings for these 4 weeks are from here.
    • The four weeks preceding Lent are known as:
      1. Sunday of the Tax Collector and Pharisee (from the Parable),
        • Begin reading focused spiritual reading to prepare for Lent as our life situation permits
      2. Sunday of the Prodigal Son (from the Parable),
        • Clean lampadas, clean house for blessing before Lent, begin thinking pointedly on what one can do differently during Great Lent, ideas include:
          • tithe of the year - see this list and this podcast by Fr. Thomas Hopko
          • going off FB
          • Psalter reading, praying an Akathist, praying one of the hours,
          • building habits of order in one’s life and home
          • books on Lent for children, YA and adults
          • being reconciled with one another
          • fasting in food but also can do ‘spiritual fasts’... like from worry or judging others
      3. Sunday of Meat (the Final Judgment),
        • This Sunday is the last day to eat meat, as health permits (talking to one's spiritual father or priest about this is best, esp. if you have issues of health, have young children, have an infant, or are in a family that are not ready to engage in the fast as a family, for whatever reason).
        • Butterweek ~ special pancakes, meals, preparing for the fast
        • Praying the Akathist to the Protection of the Mother of God for her help during Great Lent
        • Continue praying for wisdom as to what one can do for our Lenten Journey of this year
      4. Sunday of Cheese (Adam's expulsion from Paradise);
        • This Sunday is the last day to eat dairy, as health permits
        • Read something about Lent, think about how we too have been expelled from Paradise and that we need to desire Christ
        • Being reconciled to each other, forgiving each other as we start Lent so that we can indeed have the first day of Lent being our 'Clean Monday'
        • Putting out Lenten Icons

      This list is in now ways exhaustive and is based on my
      own experience and what I have learned.
      That said,
      I would LOVE to hear other people's ideas, thoughts and suggestions
      for preparing for this Great Lenten Journey.
      So please do leave comments or send me an email!

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