Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in his book Great Lent describes Lent as a spiritual journey whose destination is Easter, the Feast of Feasts. Our Lord’s Resurrection stands at the center and heart of our Christian Faith and is the basis of our hope and joy in life. The way to resurrection, however, is through the Cross, through repentance (metanoia), prayer, and forgiveness of one another. Our spiritual journey to Pascha, to be fulfilling and rewarding, requires a desire to take stock of our life and our relationship to God and one another, in light of the teachings and commandments of our Lord. Great Lent offers us that opportunity.
But what is repentance? Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writes the following: “We come closer to the heart of the matter if we reflect on the literal sense of the Greek term for repentance, metanoia. This means ‘change of mind’: not just regret for the past, but a fundamental transformation of our outlook, a new way of looking at ourselves, at others and at God. As a “new mind,” a conversion, a re-centering, repentance is positive, not negative. It is not despondency but eager expectation. It is not to feel that one has reached an impasse, but to take the way out. It is not self-hatred but the affirmation of my true self as made in God’s image. To repent is to look, not downward at my own shortcomings, but upward at God’s love; not backward with self-reproach, but forward with trustfulness. It is to see not what I have failed to be but what, by the grace of Christ, I can yet become.
"When interpreted in this positive sense, repentance is seen to be not just a single act but a continuing attitude. In the words of St. Theophan the Recluse, ‘Repentance is the starting point and foundation stone of our new life in Christ; and it must be present not only at the beginning but throughout our growth in this life, increasing as we advance.’"
It is now April, and we have been on our journey for a number of weeks. Very soon, on the Sunday, one week before Holy Week begins, we will hear the Gospel reading at the Divine Liturgy telling us of Jesus and His Disciples going up to Jerusalem; “and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” (Mark 10:32)
Fr. Thomas Hopko, in his book, The Lenten Spring, writes, "Their amazement, no doubt, was from the strange and marvelous character of what was happening. Their fear was certainly from Jesus’ predictions about His fate, soon to be fulfilled, for they knew that the Lord’s enemies were really seeking to kill Him. Whatever happens during the forty days of Great Lent, whether we think, according to our limited understanding, that we have done well, or whether we learn once more the bitter but most blessed lesson of our incapacity to accomplish even the smallest of our good intentions, the result — if we are honest with ourselves — will be the same every year: we go up to Jerusalem with Jesus, like His very first disciples, amazed and afraid! We are filled with wonder and awe at what the Lord brings to pass for the sake of our salvation. If this be so — and may the Lord grant it! — then Great Lent will not have shone forth upon us in vain."
Make us worthy, O Lover of Man, to behold the week of Your Passion ... May we glorify Your mighty acts, Your unspeakable plan of salvation for our sake. O Lord, glory to You! (Adapted hymn from Matins, Friday of the Sixth Week of Lent)