By Fr. Andrew Demotses
All of us lead lives so filled with the demands of work and family that little time is left to us to cultivate the garden of our soul. In our preoccupation with the ceaseless business of life, our spirit, if not completely forgotten, is often sadly neglected. When we do find the time to look at ourselves honestly, we soon discover that the spirit of the world has gradually and imperceptibly eaten away at our good intentions; we have become shopworn by the cares and self-centered spirit of the world.
Fortunately for us, the church recognized from its earliest days that we would need regular periods of reflection and renewed effort if we were to free ourselves from the relentless grip of worldly cares, to once again imitate the example of Christ and reflect it in our lives. It did so by developing the season of Lent, a season that invites us to renew our concentration on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving which lie at the very heart of Christian living.
Through the discipline of quiet prayer, we acknowledge and affirm the sovereignty of almighty God in our lives. In doing so, we surrender the notion of living according to the principle of power; we accept that we are not the measure of all things. In the practice of fasting, we seek to overcome the power that material things have gained over us; we strive to be servants of the sacred and not merely masters of the material and profane. Finally, we are called to almsgiving, through which we share the fruits of our labor with those in need, and thus surrender our natural tendency to be self-seeking. The prayer which unites us to God, fasting which curbs our ceaseless desires, almsgiving which allows us to actively love our neighbor as ourselves — these are the transforming gifts of Lent.
If they are to convey their wonderful grace, however, we must make them the tools by which we deepen and enrich our faith and relationship to Jesus Christ. That, truly, is what it means to be a Christian. The wisdom of the ages invites us once again to this marvelous opportunity to find God in our lives; let us take care that we not waste it.