Each year at the beginning of the Lenten season, one particular book is oftentimes referenced. It was written by Benedicta Ward and it is entitled, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. The book is full of wisdom and provides much in the way of spiritual direction. The book is full of conversations between a young monk, a novice, and an elder monk. Very often the novice is feeling empowered due to some spiritual insight he has gained; yet in nearly every case the elder is there to further enlighten with gentle redirection.
In one particular dialogue, the novice tells his elder that his inner life has progressed to the point where he is now surrounded entirely by light, and that he is actually able to see angels beside him. Lovingly, the elder replies, “… it would be better if you were able to see the sins which are right in front of you.”
Seeing the sins which are right in front of us lies at the center of the Orthodox Christian Lenten effort (See Prayer of St Ephraim the Great). Little spiritual progress can be made without identifying our sins. Referencing that we are sinful - it is a part of our fallen nature, after all - is simply not enough. Naming a sin, claiming it as our own, then working to dispose of it, is the required Lenten effort. Unless we see ourselves as broken and hopeless without God, will only help to further destroy us.
The intent of Lent is to wound our heart, to pierce our consciousness. Repentance and conversion returns us from the wildness, and in to God’s loving embrace.
Our lives are too often spent in self-promotion. We carry on as if we are at the center of the universe, and what happens to us is more important than what happens to others.
This is wrong; this is tragically wrong. This only leads to further separation, and alienation from the Savior. And when this occurs, we remain separated from God’s light, his joy, his peace, and in the final analysis, his eternal and heavenly kingdom.
-Fr Marc Vranes
Clean Monday, 2012