Well, Great Lent is officially over. We have now entered the holiest period of the year, aptly named “Holy Week.” It means 11 services over seven days, culminating in the glorious Paschal celebration at about midnight on April 30/May 1. I CANNOT WAIT!
As I’ve said before, I came into the Church last Holy Saturday by the Sacrament of Chrismation. I renounced heresies. Fr. Isaac led me into the Church, annointed me with oil, and I took my first Communion. I was told I glowed like a bride on her wedding day. The honeymoon is far from over. I still get chills thinking of that day–the waves of peace flooding my soul as I realized that, after 30 years, I was spiritually HOME, and the overwhelming sense of how blessed I was to have been captured by the Truth.
Yesterday, we celebrated Lazarus Saturday. Liturgically, mystically, we watched Christ call forth His four-days-dead friend from a tomb. We know that He calls us forth as well, our souls long-dead in sin, asking us to come forward, to meet Him, to respond.
Growing up in the altar-call churches, I always felt a great pressure to march down the aisle, to rededicate, to get right with God. It’s a good pressure to feel–we always stand in need of His mercy. But at the same time, intellectually, it didn’t make any sense to me, because in those churches, there was not lot of language about transformation. We were SAVED. Once. No need to repent any further. Sure, we could be sorry for the sins we commited, but we were supposed to stay on the path. I always felt lost in all the talk of what we were supposed to do “for” Jesus. I kind of got hung up at the very first step. I felt like I just wasn’t getting it.
I know that I stray. I know that I am prone to wander, to quote the great Protestant hymn. I always felt great guilt about that. Maybe if I believed more, maybe if I could just trust Him more, I would stay by His side. But it seemed like I never had the tools to stay there. I really, honestly, did not know how to do it, and it wasn’t for lack of effort.
In the book of Acts, St. Luke records that one of the earliest names for the followers of Christ was those who were part of “the Way.” Orthodoxy is very much the Way. It is a roadmap, a guide, a companion, and guardrails. It enables me to more clearly hear the voice of the One calling from beyond the place where I am, saying “come forth.” And it gives me the tools to respond–through Holy Communion, through Confession, through participation in the liturgies.
All those tools are available to us all the time, but no more so than during this period of our year. Today we responded with our palm branches, welcoming Him as King. And as Orthodox Christians, we prepare to enter with Him into that holiest week, to His death, and His glorious Resurrection. It is a week-long process. We remember the parable of the bridegroom and the foolish maids–unprepared for His coming. We will mourn His suffering and His death, keeping vigil at the tomb until the appointed hour, when like the myrh-bearing women, we will proclaim His resurrection to the world.