Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Peeling the Onion of Lent

Grace and Peace, Tomorrow many Christians begin their lenten journey by observing "Ash Wednesday." Although this is a Western tradition, the Mar Thoma Orthodox Church has always participated in this deeply transformational practice. I'd like to share a few of our experiences with you, and to invite those who have been travelers with us along the way. We cannot even begin to discuss Lent in the MTOC without first mentioning our beloved Archbishop, the late Veron Ashe (Mar Enoch). Through his intense charisma and desire to share the ancient faith, Mar Enoch led his flock by both study and experience. He desired that everyone in the church UNDERSTAND what they are doing historically, theologically, and praxis. He had a unique ability to tie it all together as he re-appropriated the powerful traditions many of us grew up without. In addition to Ash Wednesday and fasting, Mar Enoch encouraged everyone to take a spiritual pilgrimage during Lent. For those of us in California, this usually meant a trip to San Francisco where we would walk the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Cathedral. After this we would visit the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the Richmond District. I will let others describe the powerful experiences we had there. Those experiences were integrated into our worship back home which reached its climax during Holy Week. Many of us would never have seen ourselves participating in such things before encountering Mar Enoch and the ancient faith. Isn't this all religious mumbo jumbo? We quickly learned that there were many things to unlearn. One of the great voices of Christian Orthodoxy is Bishop Kallistos Ware (Timothy Ware). In his book "The Orthodox Way", he describes the encounter of a great traveling monk with an old frail sister who was a recluse. “One of the best known of the Desert Fathers of fourth-century Egypt, St Sarapion the Sindonite, travelled once on a pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of life – for he was a great wanderer – Sarapion called on her and asked: ‘Why are you sitting here?’ To this she replied: I am not sitting, I am on a journey’. Consider this story as we approach lent. Perhaps it isn't about all of the external things that we do and observe. Rather, the true meaning behind the entire drama is really played out in the stillness (or lack thereof) within ourselves. We journey through lend AS A COMMUNITY, but this practice also leads to an exploration of our INNER WORLDS. We encourage you to join with us, and Christians worldwide, in this opportunity for personal and communal transformation. As I write this post, Ash Wednesday is only a few hours away. Consider attending a Catholic, Episcopalian, or any other Church that observes Lent tomorrow morning. It might feel funny if it is your first time wearing ashes on your forehead all day. But, hey, it is also an experience! For those who are more familiar with Lent, we are going to share some other resources to reinvigorate you on the journey. So welcome to Lent 2015! Let's all meet up back here and share our stories together. Blessings of light and life, Archbishop Avi Mar Abraham

No comments:

Post a Comment