Homily 252 – First Sunday of Great Lent
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
March 5, 2017
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
In the reading for this Sunday, the First Sunday of Great Lent, we learn of our destination.
We will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
The Son of Man. Christ Himself – risen from the dead, humanity restored.
The past weeks of preparation have been difficult. Especially the last one. So, very wisely and compassionately, the Church offers us a brief respite. An opportunity to take a breath, and contemplate the end of the journey.
Because in the beginning of the journey, when the Apostles were first called, they were told the end. Seeing the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
If we were in a monastic setting, the Divine Liturgy would be celebrated every day. Until this past Monday. And it won’t be celebrated during the week again until the Day of Pascha – a day which lasts eight days.
In that setting, we would wear dark vestments, in some places, black vestments, during the week, but bright vestments, gold vestments on the weekends. Each Sunday is a little respite. A resurrection still.
A break – ever so brief, but ever so important.
We, in our place and time, wear dark vestments for the whole period of Lent, because we do not have the daily reminder of the Great Fast in our liturgical life.
There are things that we cannot do during Lent. No marriages can be celebrated during this time.
But on the weekends, we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, and hear the whole of the salvation story through the Anaphora prayers of St. Basil the Great.
Including the culmination of that great narrative – which is the resurrection, and our salvation.
If we enter into the Spirit of Great Lent, and we use this time to ignore our wants and needs and desires, we can do in a small way what Christ did perfectly.
And we in a small way participate in the resurrection on Pascha.
The Triumphant entry into Jerusalem becomes ours.
The prayer in the Garden becomes ours.
The betrayal becomes ours.
The Crucifixion becomes ours.
And the Resurrection becomes ours also, and the ascension into heaven becomes ours, and the second coming becomes ours.
St. Paul reminds us in the reading from his epistle to the Hebrews that the Old Testament righteous ones didn’t share in that knowledge of what was to come.
And they were faithful anyway.
In fact, the only thing they saw was death and violence.
Moses knew returning to Pharoah would be potentially fatal. Rahab the prostitute knew that keeping spies safe was incredibly dangerous.
What they could see was danger. What they couldn’t see, but believed anyway, was deliverance by God. They did see deliverance – but not the final deliverance, which came through Christ.
In some respects, we too are blinded to the deliverance at hand. Or perhaps we simply refuse to believe it.
We know of the resurrection, the promise of Christ, and we live in that hope. That is faith, just like the faith of Moses, and of Rahab, and of the others.
The essence of things hoped for, the substance of things unseen.
We live life dangerously. Dangerously in the sense that we disregard our own safety, our own well-being, in the service and protection of others.
We take risks.
But we take those risks and accept those dangers with the full knowledge that our Lord has our back. That he has been there before us, and demonstrated God’s deliverance – God’s love – for us.
That is the essence of Lent. Participating in self-denial while serving others. That is Christ-like.
That is Christian.
Keep your sight on what is to come. Keep as your constant companion the Triumph of the Resurrection. That is our promise.
That is our hope.
That is our future.
We enter the darkness, that we might find the light.
We enter the darkness, that we might find Christ.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!