Our journey through this year’s great lent starts next Monday. The 3-day lent was a preamble for the great lent.
The forty day lent starts on Feb 23rd and we celebrate Easter on April 12th. Count it for yourself on the calendar and you’ll notice that it stretches beyond 40 days. One of the most perplexing questions I had, when I was a kid, was why the 40 day lent extends more than 40 days. Just last year, some of the adults came by and asked me the same question. This time, I was able to give them an explanation. The explanation is that we do not count Sundays in our lent. Aaaha… does that mean we can break our lent on Sundays? Well… not exactly. Sundays are considered to be Feast days, and we are supposed to be jovial and come participate in Holy Qurbana.
Prior to getting into lent, we do couple of activities. One of them is we forgive all others around us; come to agreement with anyone and everyone that we may have irritation or anger against. There is a special service at church, called the Shu-bah-kono. The prayers are fundamentally to give us the strength to forgive all around us and to give peace to all. At the end of this service, you’ll notice people standing in a line and exchanging kiss of peace to each and everyone. What we learn from this is that, there is no meaning or value in stepping into the great lent if you have any kind of annoyance or irritation against your fellow human beings. This is step # 1.
Step # 2 is the fun activity and we hold a feast on the day before the lent begins. In our church, it’s called ‘peth-ru-tha’ – similar to the ‘Mardi Gras’ or ‘Fat Tuesday’ that precedes Ash Wednesday. In catholic religion, the great lent begins on Ash Wednesday and therefore Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday is on the prior day. People are excited and hold large carnivals and banquets the day before the lent begins. Since orthodox lent begins on Feb 23rd, we hold Peth-ru-tha on Sunday, Feb 22nd.
Personally, I have tried observing the great lent several times but have failed miserably every time. When I reviewed the reasons, I discovered that only few human beings have been really successful in observing the great lent in its true meaning. I am talking not just about abstaining from meat or egg or dairy products. I am talking about controlling food, your actions, your body and even your thoughts. In my examination, what I have learned is that only few people have truly been successful in observing the lent for 40 days, such as Mosses, Elijah, Jesus Christ etc. The higher we set our standards for observing the great lent, the vicious the testing and temptation from the devil. The reason is simple – the devil does not want anyone to attain such power that would thwart his existence.
So, why are we still trying to set forth for a journey that has quite a huge number of challenges? We do our best in staying on course and God knows our weakness. When God created human beings, He provided us with those ingredients necessary to withstand devil. However, only a very few have tried to attain that echelon. At least, we try our best. Also, it’s an opportunity for us to realize how frail we are, when it comes to our strength – both mental and physical. This will certainly allow us to humble ourselves.
Once again, this year, I plan on observing the great lent by giving my best shot. I’ll see how long I can hang on. Prayer is the only medication that will enable me to ride into this journey. There is going to be constant struggles at home, work, church, friends, etc. I am sure there will be some damage done to me during this lent season. There will be circumstances where I may have to raise my voice, times when my patience will be tested, times when unfavorable news will be heard. I’ll try my level best not to succumb to any of those. If you’ve read the story of Job in the Bible you know how much Job had to suffer while being tested by devil. My plan is to believe in God and stay course. Let’s see what they are.
If any of you are planning to journey the great lent this year, I request you to pray for me as well. I’ll pray for all of you to succeed in whatever you are doing. If time permits, I’ll try to post how each day is going by. My schedule would be get up early, take a shower, pray to God, go to work, stay in constant communication with God, control my thoughts and actions, do good deeds to others, if I get tempted, say a simple Kauma or psalm, remember about those who survived the lent, ask our saints to give strength, pray in the evening, talk less, go to church on Sunday, consume Holy Qurbana, thank God for the past week, request strength for the next week. I plan on visiting the prison and talking to some of those who are behind bars. If I were in India, I would have visited a hospital and surprised some of the poor families by talking to them and paying off their hospital bills (the joy they express at that time cannot be elucidated).
When we reach mid lent, there is a service at church where ‘Golgotha’ will be placed at the center of the church. Does anyone know why it’s there? I’ll post the reason later on.
Holy week is the last episode of the great lent. I’ll share few thoughts on the Holy week when we get closer.
Wish you the very best to those of you who are setting out for this journey. Remember – you are not alone!!