[Video of the presentation, and the full interfaith service below. My presentation starts at minute 33. There is also a lovely Ukrainian version of the Jesus Prayer at minute 27.]
Join me online on Saturday, March 5, at 10 am Pacific, 1 pm EST as a speechify about my spiritual journey, Orthodox spiritually and the meaning of Great Lent, for the Living Interfaith Sanctuary, in Vancouver BC. The LIS is a great interfaith church run by a Buddhist and dear friend Cathy Merchant. We both graduate from VST this spring. The group has guest speakers from all sorts of backgrounds and this week it will be me and my background that will be…speaking (uh?).
Here is a preview of what I might talk about [I never know what will come out of my mouth. It’s exciting].
What is the meaning of Great Lent?
Well, I don’t know. But I can tell you a few things that the Eastern Church tradition has maintained. Great Lent has been, for over a thousand years, the most intense period of training for new Christians, the catechumenate, before the initiation of baptism at the end of Holy Week. But more broadly, this is a time of purification, introspection, and preparation for the Feast of Feast, the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. It is a time of silent prayer, intense church services (sometimes daily), and yes, fasting.
Before a feast can come, there must be a fast. Before resurrection, a death. Before a promise can be fulfilled, there is preparation. So, we prepare by going gradually deeper and deeper into our spiritual practice. How do we do this? By “laying aside all earthly cares.”** We lay aside distractions, rich foods, and vain pursuits, just for a while, to focus more on God.
As we say in PraXis a lot, this is asceticism. Some would say this word means self-denial. But the word comes from askesis — training or striving. We get the word athlete from askesis as well. For many Christians, Great Lent is the only time of year when they encounter the practice of Christian spiritual striving. But asceticism is an almost daily part of Orthodox spiritual life.
More importantly, Great Lent is about pushing the body, mind, and spirit to that place where the narrative world of Good News of Christ intersects with the objective world of our own sensory experience. This intense striving for a moment when the story of God breaks into the story of our own personal experience is what asceticism is often about. And in Great Lent profound spiritual insight, experiences, and intimacy with God may also be afforded to you, in grace.
By the way, this is also a great time to set an intention for your Praxis– a fitness, mindfulness or fasting goal. As we begin Great Lent, plan out where do you want to be, six weeks from now in your fitness or prayer life. Take the PraXis ten-week challenge if you like.
The point is, set a goal and prepare. Prepare for when we celebrate the raising up of Christ out of Earth. For the essence of God has come to dwell among us, first in the flesh and now in the Spirit.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of [repayment]* from our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
Living Interfaith Sanctuary
The Zoom link to the service is also on the homepage.
Zoom Link: HERE
Meeting ID: 851 9409 1775
10 am, Pacific, 1 pm EST
Past Sermons and Lectures are here on their YouTube Channel
** Cherubic Hymn, Divine Liturgy [Work of the People] of St John Chrysostom
* antapodosis is the Greek translation of (vengeance) in the LXX version of Isaiah, often means repayment and reward, not vengeance per se. The historical Jesus and his students (disciples) would have known the LXX, not the Hebrew text.