OUR GLOBAL GREAT LENT
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Archdeacon David reminded me of this quote from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities as we discussed the fact that in spite of the current difficulties and challenges, this time of testing also brings a myriad of blessings and opportunities. For the time being, every one of our lives has been dramatically changed to a degree not seen in our lifetimes. There is the real threat to those of us susceptible to severe consequences of this novel virus, and there is the economic, social, and emotional challenges that come from the “social distancing” requirements we have all been placed under. Those threats are real and we should pay due attention to them.
But this time also provides a myriad of opportunities and blessings. Just one of those is that most of us now have more time–something most of us were woefully short of before the arrival of COVID-19 in Kent County, unbelievably just a few short days ago. Due to travel restrictions, limits on gathering, and businesses slowing or shutting down, many of us will have more time on our hands than at any time we can remember. Many of the opportunities we are being handed are connected with a more plentiful supply of time.
So since our face-to-face contact is now greatly diminished, you’ll be “hearing” from me more frequently through emailed reflections and online chats. It is my hope and prayer that we use this time–as we should use any time God gives us–by seeing how God can bless us and bring us closer to Him and His Kingdom, in any time.
To begin looking at the opportunities we’re being handed, please enjoy the following reflection on Our Global Great Lent.
OUR GLOBAL GREAT LENT
by Elissa Bjeletich
What an interesting Great Lent we have this year! Just as Clean Monday arrived, COVID-19 became an international news story, a global concern. As we move deeper into the Lenten season, we are asked to retreat from our noisy lives, to avoid entertainments and parties, to spend more time quietly at home… actually, the Church calls us to do that every year, but this year, the WHO and the CDC are calling us too. We usually have to create conditions of struggle and ascesis, but this year they are ready-made and waiting for us. Welcome to the Global Great Lent.
I’ve heard a few people say that somehow the fear of this virus, and the toilet-paper-purchasing chaos that seems to be gripping our nation, is distracting us from Great Lent; it just doesn’t feel like Lent this year.
It may not feel like our usual Great Lent, but it sure is lenty isn’t it? They’ve closed down professional and college athletics, Broadway musicals and SXSW… food is a little harder to come by… those little modern luxuries we enjoy, like paper products and Lysol spray and water bottles, are scarcer and more precious. And most of all: we are constantly aware of our human mortality. Death sits steady on the radar. For once, our secular world is actually setting us up for a perfect fast.
As always, God calls us to prayer: prayer for ourselves and prayer for our loved ones, prayer for the vulnerable among us, and prayer for the hoarders and the people who shove you out of the way in the grocery store. The call is the same, but now maybe we can hear it more sharply as our mutual anxiety grows.
“When you pray to God in time of temptation do not say, ‘Take this or that away from me’, but pray like this: ‘O Jesus Christ, sovereign Master, help me and do not let me sin against Thee…” ~ Abba Isaiah the Solitary
We are not called to ask God to spare us all from this virus, to send it only to distant strangers in faraway lands. We should be asking God to help us become all love: to give us the humility it will take to put aside our important meetings and conferences, to help us put others first, to share our resources when we aren’t sure when we’ll next be able to buy groceries. It’s one thing to be generous when life is easy, but in these days when everything feels less certain and when we feel less in control of our destinies… these are the days that test us.
“Every affliction tests our will, showing whether it is inclined to good or evil. That is why an unforeseen affliction is called a test, because it enables a man to test his hidden desires.” ~ St. Mark the Ascetic
It’s not exactly that God is testing us. God knows our hearts. Perhaps a test is just a moment that reveals our own hearts to us. I can walk through life telling myself that I am as generous and loving as they come, but in this moment I will have to face the truth of my dark and greedy heart.
This is a great Lent, indeed, for it offers us a tangible opportunity to curtail our own will in service to others and to learn to rely on God rather than on the material comforts we take for granted.
Lord of the Powers, be with us! For in times of distress we have no other help but You.
Lord and Master of my life, take away from me the spirit of laziness, idle curiosity, lust for power and vain talk. Rather grant to me, Your servant, a spirit of moderation, humility, patience and love. Yea, Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.
Wishing you good strength for a fruitful Lent!
About Elissa Bjeletich
Elissa Bjeletich hosts three popular Ancient Faith Radio podcasts: Raising Saints, Everyday Orthodox, and together with Kristina Wenger, Tending the Garden of Our Hearts. She is the co-author of Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home and author of Welcoming the Christ Child: Family Readings for the Nativity Lent, and In God’s Hands: A Mother’s Journey through Her Infant’s Critical Illness. She serves as the Sunday school director at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church. Elissa lives near Austin, Texas, with her husband, Marko, and their five daughters. You’ll find more information on her website: elissabjeletich.com