I have to admit, I like reading the thoughts and reflections of catechumens, or those who have recently decided to become Orthodox Christians. There's a freshness in their thoughts and devotion, and it's good for me to keep my finger on that particular pulse within the life of the Church. I always want to encourage others.
Today we are celebrating the beheading of St. John the Forerunner. It is a strict fasting day, and we had the opportunity to partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ this morning in the Eucharist. What a treat! What a feast! Ascending into heaven!
And my flesh, for a little while yesterday, was rebelling at the thought. I wanted MY Saturday morning. I had visions of sipping coffee, perhaps a stroll through farmer's market, catching up on the Laundry and grading some papers. I was full of justifications, about how "Saturday is a work day" for me, and so I need to skip Divine Liturgy, stay home and do stuff. I am, after all, perpetually behind on everything due to my low energy levels.
But then, I thought about what Father Alexander always tells us. He's always saying that if we have the opportunity, we should prepare ourselves and come and partake of the Holy Mystery. We should want Jesus more than anything, and we should seek Him in the Sacrament.
And it is in preparing to take the Sacrament, in approaching the Chalice that I realize how very spiritually weak I really truly am. (Although I like to delude myself into thinking I'm all hunky dory on that path because after all, I've been a Christian for X number of years). But my flesh rebells, so I think there's a reason why the Orthodox Church prescribes (yes, prescribes...as in prescritpion...medicine for our souls) fasting and the praying of certain prayers to us: It is to strengthen us. And to show us where we really are.
I'll be honest and admit, taking Communion once a week is fairly standard. Routine. Habit. Gotcha covered. (It's good to have and develop spiritual habits.) Twice a week, I usually feel like I can do. Three times a week, I'm feeling stretched. Physically, spiritually, even emotionally stretched. This is where the rubber meets the road and I realize how spiritually weak I really am. Sort of like a fitness routine, where you hit the edge of the envelope of your abilities. Four times in one week...I don't think I've ever done it. I could have this week, but I didn't. God have mercy on me, because ultimately all of this reminds me that approaching the Chalice is NOT about my own strength, it's about abiding in God's grace, mercy and LIFE.
And it is the pull between the LIFE OF GOD and the pull of worldly things, the cares and concerns of daily living on planet earth (which I do give to God as an offering) and the sins and temptations that are always with me (for which I do beg for mercy and forgiveness but which do noticeably pull me away from God) that I really feel when I have a week like this when there are multiple opportunities for extra prayers, extra spiritual exertion, extra fasting and then Communion, the grace of God.
So the quesiton I've been mulling for perhaps the last year in the back of my mind is this: How do I get stronger? How do I consistently practice the spiritual life at a better level than I already do it? Perhaps I should talk to my priest. Or perhaps I should do more consistently what I already know to be doing.
God have mercy on me a sinner.