The story of Lent is one that encompasses all the Covenants, both past and future. It is Joseph who lay bruised and beaten in the depth of a pit only to rise up and be clad in Pharaoh’s clothes. It is desert-exiled Moses, a reluctant shepherd, who led God’s people to the Promised Land. It is a very sore Abraham, cut in his old age, who would have descendents enumerating the hosts of the sky. It is a short kid named David who conquered his fear (he couldn’t have had that good of an arm) and received a Throne. It is a girl pregnant out of wedlock who denied all pride and became Theotokos. It was God in flesh, battered and crucified ascending into heaven. And it will be our eternal judgment and the eternal banquet of the faithful. Christians old and new live in a backward reality.
In this Lenten story, we have all become Adams, hiding from ourselves and God, forgetting (or trying to forget) that He sees all. And so Lent is the time when God walks through the Garden, calling our name and asking us what we have done. We wriggle and whinny ourselves in every direction, pointing fingers and passing blame as layer after layer reveals us as basely human. Once we are stripped, our nakedness in plain view, then God begins to sew clothes for us. That usually happens around Day 39.
Lent is my favorite Season (which many find quite strange). I have a devotion to Lent because it is the journey of Christ. I walk unreservedly with Him in the desert of hunger to face demons and find angels. He asks us to follow Him unconditionally as He treads upon the thorns of sin with hope, but no sight, of a rose. He gives strength to be crucified with Him, to go down into the depths of Hades with Him, to die with only rumors of a resurrection. Forty days to see my utter depravity. Do not think that it is morbidity that finds love in these things. It is thankfulness that our Lord Christ would walk this earth to kill death itself and then, having finished the race, grants us the Spirit to share with Him in His suffering. In Lent the Spirit reveals with utmost clarity who I am, and utterly disturbed by the sight, I run to Christ and cling to Him, seeking to be clothed in and with Him.
Lent is also the sequence of our baptism; in baptism, we are drowned. Our old man is left gulping down fonts of water and suffocating while our New Man is raised to the newness of life. In the depths, in the fires of hell, in the baseness of humanity we are held for forty days. One day a week we are allowed to grasp a short breath of air, a wisp of victory, then under we go again. We are left to stare up through the blurred current at the Light, and as the days pass the darkness grows darker, and yet somehow it seems that the rays of the sun penetrate clearer through the rivulet of rushing sins. We are drowned in Living Waters.
And then it’s Holy Week. Blackness and agony enfold me as the assigned Readings cast all thought of my weak faith aside in the looming greatness of the Cross and Passion. Someone thought it was a good idea to read through every account of Christ’s agony and bloody sweat – brave soul. By Holy Saturday my soul has nowhere to turn but to that Font from which it was born, and the words of St. Augustine ring through my being:
“Oh that I might find my rest and peace in you! Oh that you would come into my heart and so inebriate it that I would forget my own evils and embrace my one and only good, which is you! Oh, in the name of all your mercies, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me! Say unto my soul; I am thy salvation. Speak so that I can hear. See, Lord, the ears of my heart are in front of you. Open them and say unto my soul: I am thy salvation. At these words I shall run and I shall take hold of you. Do not hide your face from me. Let me die, lest I should die indeed; only let me see your face.”
In Lent we have been drowned, buried, and burned – we have experienced the eternity of forty days. But then our shoulders are grasped by strong hands and we are raised “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.” We come out of the cleansing river and we breathe truly, for we have the Breath of Life restored in our lungs. We see truly, for we are blinded by the Light which casts out darkness. Easter has come, and we are not only raised with Christ, but we ascend with Him into the heavenlies. Here we are accepted to that Heavenly Banquet in the most unshrouded glory of the year – Christos Anesti! Nietzsche was wrong, Modern Man is a liar, Reality is not as we thought it. We have died to live.