Looking forward to Lent
I'm looking forward to Lent. The longer I've been Orthodox, the more this time of year draws me. There's a "downshifting" that happens as a community, and personally, and in some ways it has already begun, although we are still a week away from meatfare. (Meatfare Sunday is the last day we eat meat, a week before Lent officially starts, as we clean out our freezers.) I suppose this feeling of slowing down is due to the fact that the Lenten triodion has begun. In the three weeks before lent, we start thinking about getting our hearts ready for repentance.
First comes the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. Second is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. And last, we remember the Last Judgement. (As if that weren't enough, we contemplate Zaccheus' repentance the week before. Bombs away!)
Talk about a comprehensive program to get us all primed for repentance!
And I want my heart to be primed. I want to be ready. I want to be the good soil, to follow in the footsteps of Zaccheaus, the Publican, and the Prodigal.
If I stop to think about it, does it seem odd? Planning in advance to repent? Shouldn't we be doing that all the time. Well, yes. But that's the point. Planning it gives the "all the time" bit that extra oomph. I suppose it is better to schedule repentance into my calendar, into my life, and plan for it, than it is to never get around to it. It's amazing how easy it is to fall asleep.
I suppose it is better to decide in advance to forgive, than to float along letting my emotions be my guide.
I suppose one does not just wake up strong one day. Rather strength must be built in little ways, day by day.
I was speaking of such things with my kids yesterday. My nine year old is convinced that Lent was invented just to torture us. (Sort of like my cross country coach in High School "invented" uphill sprints to torture us...but we were so much faster and stronger as a result.) At his age he lacks the maturity and perspective to see the value of it. Hopefully over the years, he'll catch on. But I also hope that we can do this in such a way that is life-giving for him, where he is at, as well.
I plan on keeping plenty of all-fruit popsicles in the freezer, that's for sure. I suppose the topic of "Mothering my Children through Lent" would be somethig to contemplate and write about at some point.)
God, have mercy on us and turn our hearts to You!