"It is HIS cross that saves us, not ours" - Fr Alexander Schmemann
So, for many Orthodox Christians, Holy Week and Easter is just a week away.. we're almost there guys!
You know how it goes in lent, the first week goes by and you say to yourself, "Gosh this one is gonna be soooo long!" Then when there is a week left, you say to yourself, "I can't believe its almost over!" Well just over a week ago, I had one of those moments - but for a different reason. The latter thought continued like this "I can't believe its almost over, and I haven't benefited!" This is no ones fault other than my own. I was searching around my heart and mind the reason for this, and out of nowhere - BAM, it hit me! There was so much I was doing, but I wasn't actually doing anything.. I was fasting, only felt that I missed out on certain foods, I was praying, just felt that time was passing, I was reading, just as a duty...
I've been in Europe for the past few weeks and have really gotten the chance to spend time alone. (Side note: It was pretty funny actually because I was talking to one of my friends the other day and was telling him that being alone in another country is tough, he responded saying 'yea it must be tough but spend time with yourself', and I clarified saying 'That's not so much the issue, but I literally speak about 20-30 words the whole day!'. Hotel receptionists, waiters, co-workers, all but a few words in English.) Back to what I was saying, spending time alone. So I spoke to my Father of confession telling him that lent is almost over and I don't want it to pass without me gaining anything. He told me to pray more, fast harder, and read more diligently. At first I said okay that's the typical answer, but then I thought about it and it was just what I needed! Not just to simply do the tasks more, but to use them as tools to strengthen my relationship with God, and realize just how much I need His saving-ness. "Save us now!," we will cry out on Palm Sunday, and it isn't until we realize that it isn't because of the prayers or fastings or prostrations that we will receive salvation, but by them we will be able to "see ourselves" and truly notice where we are sick, and be able to go to the True Physician to heal us.
Which leads me back to the beginning quote by Fr Alexander Schmemann, "It is HIS cross that saves us, not ours"... Don't give glory to yourself for being able to abstain for a certain time, or for reading a certain amount, or disciplining your body harshly - for these will only allow you to think you've done something that deserves a reward. God did, is doing, and will do the work for our reward.
I will end on a quote from St John Climacus from Ladder of Divine Ascent on detachment, "Derided, mocked, jeered, you must accept the denial of your will. You must patiently endure opposition, suffer neglect without complain, and put up with violent arrogance. You must not be angered by contempt and you must show humility when you have been condemned. Happy are those who follow this road and avoid other highways. Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."