Journey is essential to the saving work of God in time and space. Lent is a multifaceted journey. More aptly put, it is a journey of and into the paradox – the Mystery – of our salvation. Into Christ.
- From and to.
- Out of and into and deeper into.
- Renunciation and affirmation.
- Relinquishing and taking up.
- Lamentation and rejoicing.
- Loss and gain.
- Death and life.
It is a journey from death to life; from chaos to order. A journey requiring discipline, vigilance, and perseverance. And these the outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit when we have come to the end of being able to do them ourselves. (Hint: Lent is not about us “being successful.” It is about humility.)
During Vespers on Saturday evening before the Sunday of Forgiveness, we heard these words:
“The arena of the virtues has been opened.
Let all who wish to struggle for the prize now enter,
girding themselves for the noble contest of the Fast;
for those that strive lawfully are justly crowned.”
And yet again, at a latter point, these words:
“Adam was driven out of Paradise,
because in disobedience he had eaten food;
but Moses was granted the vision of God,
because he had cleansed the eyes of his soul by fasting.
If then we long to dwell in Paradise,
let us abstain from all needless food;
and if we desire to see God,
let us like Moses fast for forty days…
The time is now at hand for us to start upon the spiritual contest
and to gain the victory over the demonic powers.”
During the Rite of Forgiveness at Forgiveness Sunday Vespers we heard these words:
“Let us humble the flesh by abstinence:
As we follow the divine path of pure fasting…
That passing through the Fast as through a great sea
we may reach the Resurrection on the Third Day,
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls.”
Again and again, we hear and speak the language of journey. The journey of salvation.
Another aspect of this journey are the gates/doors we encounter. Scripture is filled with the image of gates and doors. They are essential to the message of salvation. I encourage you to do a word study of the passages. I is a fruitful study.
In the liturgical heritage of the Church, these door/gates are reiterated. The gates of repentance and paradise.
“Open unto me, O Giver of Life, the gates of repentance: for early in the morning my spirit seeks Thy holy temple, bearing a temple of the body all defiled. But in Thy compassion cleanse it by Thy loving-kindness and Thy mercy.”
“O precious Paradise, unsurpassed in beauty, tabernacle built by God, unending gladness and delight, glory of the righteous, joy of the prophets, and dwelling of the saints, with the sound of thy leaves pray to the Maker of all: may He open unto me the gates which I closed by my transgression, and may He count me worthy to partake of the Tree of Life and of the joy which was mine when I dwelt in thee before.”
As we pass through the gates of repentance let us set our face toward the gates of paradise. Indeed, let us realize, along the way in a refreshed manner during these forty days, that the two gates are actually two different encounters with the same gate/door the door of salvation which is Christ Jesus crucified and raised.
Note: All quotes are from , The Lenten Triodion, Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trs.(London 1978).