I felt the need earlier this week to wash my car unknowingly just days before our next winter weather event. It had warmed up outside a little, the early spring birds had been chirping in the morning hours and the grey days of winter seem to be loosening their grip a little. I chose the automatic bay as I swiped my frequent washers card only to be rejected. I had no available credit left so I used another piece of plastic and into the wash I went, minus nine plastic dollars. It is nice to have a clean car but it is also important to wash away all the abrasive ice-melting chemicals that have attached themselves to the sensitive metal parts of my vehicle. Those chemicals are great for melting ice but really bad for rotting away metal. So without leaving the comfort of my heated seat, the exterior of car would be cleaned! And then when I got home with a little effort, I used our shop-vac that sucked out all the loose dirt and debris on the inside of my car.
I got on this topic of clean because this upcoming week is clean week for the Orthodox. We begin clean week with a time to ask forgiveness of our church family and friends. Lent is a spiritual growth time of self-examination, and it usually is a struggle with our pride, anger and at times our health, as we try to navigate the waters where we deny ourselves of our usual worldly habits and make more time for Him.
All of the Orthodox Lenten practices are done to help us grow closer to God and give up a little more of our control by changing our usual routines. Hopefully we will increase our Orthodoxy during this Lent and continue even when meat and cheese becomes our staples once again. We begin clean week with a wash-cycle of forgiveness. Blasting away at these sins that cling onto our hearts and rot away our love of Creation by showing great mercy on each and everyone, just as your Father has shown great mercy on you! Or as St Paul says: “Carry one another’s burdens, because it is the way in which you will have fulfilled the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)
It takes an effort, rather than choosing the auto-wash where we sit on our butts instead of taking action with a scrub brush of prayer, repentance and forgiveness. We see in the writings from the prophet Joel: “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” (Joel 2:12)
The word “lent” is derived from the Germans and means “the beginning of life.” And so it is with us that just as a rose bush must be pruned before spring removing all the dead wood we too must sever our magnetic hold on the world and our love of ourselves! In order to love God intensely we must learn to love all of His creation. Not the kind of love where we have to agree with everyone and their choices but the kind of love that hopes for eternity for everyone.
And as for my clean car, of course it snowed once again and I will need to return to the car wash this week. Just like the dirt on my car, Lent it is a constant practice to clean ourselves. We have so many opportunities over the next several weeks here at the church to help us get clean, check out our calendar. Identifying as a Christian is not so much a word as it is a plan of action.
Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-10-2019