As Lent is swiftly progressing towards the Holy Week let us savour some Lenten deep reflections which help us grow in our love for Christ and one another. These Lenten reflections are coming from the Orientale Lumen, the light of the East.
During Lent we keep learning that we need to entrust our life to God alone! As Jesus taught us on the Cross: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit! (Luke 23:46). Jesus cry reminds me of what the gifted confessor and hospital chaplain, St Ieronymos of Aegina (1883-1966) tells us: Let us entrust our life to God, and may it be done as He wishes. Whatever the outcome may be for us, that’s the one that is for our good. For God does not want the perdition of man, but his salvation.
St Ieronymous is gently reminding me of what St Paisios of Mount Athos (1924–1994) says: Completely have trust in God, leave everything in His hands, and believe that His love will act for your own benefit. Then God will take care of everything, because there is nothing He cannot do; everything is easy for Him. The difficult thing is for man to decide to humble himself and leave everything to God’s providence and love.
Lent helps us more to think seriously of Christ’s words: Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37). The great St John Climacus (c. 579—died c. 649) advises us: Fire and water do not mix, neither can you mix judgment of others with the desire to repent.
Lent is a time where we, as parents, seriously come to terms about what real parenthood is all about, namely to teach our children God’s Word to live it. Our genuine and heart consoling success as parents will be when our children, by their very lives, can state in all truth: Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Ps 119:105). How beautiful is the following admonition for parents given by St John Chrysostomos (347-407) on raising children:
We are so concerned with our children’s schooling; if only we were equally zealous in bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord! And then we wonder why we reap such bitter fruit when we have raised our children to be insolent, licentious, impious, and vulgar. May this never happen; instead, let us heed the blessed Paul’s admonition to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Let us give them a pattern to imitate; from their earliest years let us teach them to study the Bible. He repeats this over and over again, you say, we are sick of listening to it. Never will I stop doing my duty!
Lent is a time wherein we conscientiously discern the turbulent times we are living in. In the First book of Kings Solomon makes this most beautiful and wise prayer to God: Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people? (1 Kgs 3:9). Discernment is essential particularly in this day and age wherein chaos is running supreme throughout our whole world. St Anthony the Abbot (251-356) gives us a golden insight: A time is coming when people will go mad, and when they meet someone who is not mad, they will turn to him and say, “you are out of your mind,” just because he is not like them.
Lent strongly reminds us of the power of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. In the Gospel of John Jesus tells us: When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (John 16:13). St Ephrem the Syrian (306-373) writes: Forget not the Holy Spirit at the moment of your enlightenment; He is ready to mark your soul with His seal…. He will give you the heavenly and divine seal which makes the devil tremble; He will arm you for the fight; He will give you strength.
The American singer Joey Fatone (1977) says: If you combine good flavors, food turns into an orchestra. What a beautiful orchestra of God’s holiness these saints from the East are offering to us!
And how right St Pope John Paul II was when, in his apostolic letter Orientale Lumen to mark the centenary of Orientalum Dignitas by Pope Leo XIII, he said:
Tradition is the heritage of Christ’s Church. This is a living memory of the Risen One met and witnessed to by the Apostles who passed on his living memory to their successors in an uninterrupted line, guaranteed by the apostolic succession through the laying on of hands, down to the bishops of today. This is articulated in the historical and cultural patrimony of each Church, shaped by the witness of the martyrs, fathers and saints, as well as by the living faith of all Christians down the centuries to our own day. It is not an unchanging repetition of formulas, but a heritage which preserves its original, living kerygmatic core. It is Tradition that preserves the Church from the danger of gathering only changing opinions, and guarantees her certitude and continuity. (no.8).
What an exercise of sound, constant and evolving Lenten tradition these saints from the Easter Lung of Christianity has given us!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap