Tonight, the CD player is filling my living room with sounds from The Fellowship of the Ring. When I first read the books and, of course, watched those marvelous movies, I felt a great affinity for Samwise—his loyalty, devotion, and commitment. But at the end, I felt for Frodo, still feeling the pain from the wounds suffered on his journey.
For some reason, today, this second Monday of Great Lent, I am mindful of my own journey. Step by step, sometimes wavering, sometimes steady, but hopefully always heading home.
We don’t belong here. The intention was never the frosty winters of Narnia under the White Witch, the fires of Mordor, or the soul-stripping consumerism of 21st-century America. We’re supposed to be somewhere else. We’re supposed to be with the King.
That’s what He created us for—to walk with Him, to know His voice, and to be in His presence, all the time. But we have always had other things in mind for ourselves—fruited trees, Turkish delight, Rings of Power, and Hummers. We know better, thanks. We’re our own people. We are self-actualized, credit-rated, and able to choose.
Thank God that He acted apart from our choices. Thank God that He loves us in spite of them.
Yesterday was the Sunday of Orthodoxy. We take the icons off the walls, and march them around the Church, singing of our Faith, and praising Him who has saved us. We reflect on the Seventh Ecumenical Council that restored the use of icons in worship (rightfully). Icons, of course, mean more to us than pretty pictures on the wall. They are the portraits of our friends who have gone before, but most importantly they are the images of the Incarnation, they are reminders of Emmanuel. They show God with us, in spite of us, and for us. He revealed Himself to us. The Only-Begotten Son, the Word of God, took on human form to lead us out of here. He chose not to hide Himself from us, in spite of our refusal to look at Him.
Our choices have poisoned this world where we live. The weight of the sins that I commit destroy the planet, harm my brother, and fly in the face of my Redeemer’s love.
I have misplaced myself. Instead of a life surrounded by the peace of the garden, I awake in a world that kills those who are no longer expedient, a place where the slow, the weak, and the poor are destroyed. I numb the reality with countless frivolities–television, idle chatter, food, drink, noise, whatever.
But I am in exile. I am the Israelite in Egypt. I am the prodigal eating with the swine. I am Eve, cast out.
Yet He has come. The steady and difficult march of Lent will ultimately bring me to the glorious Pascha, the day of my rescue. It reminds me of the weight of sin, and the beauty of Redemption.
I can’t allow myself to forget where I belong. I should not get too comfortable here, for someday…home.
From Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book, The Lenten Spring:
To forget God is the cause of all sins, to be unmindful of Zion is the source of all sorrows. To settle down in this fallen world, which is not God’s good creation, but rather the Babylon which the wicked has made, is death to the soul.
Then, Fr. Thomas quotes from the First Friday matins:
Blinded by sensual pleasure, I bear within me a darkened soul, and the crafty enemy laughs when he sees me. Give me light, O Christ, and deliver me forever from his malice.
Safe travels. And Good Lent.