We should not be afraid of hard times, but embrace them, as difficult as they may be. Experienced Orthodox Christians know that hard times can make people more virtuous, healthier, and more able to walk the path of salvation.

We don’t have to look very far back in our own country’s history to see this is true. The Great Depression was a disastrous time for most of mankind.

There are people alive today who remember the uncertainty and fear over how they would eat, where they would sleep, and what they would wear on their backs. Innocent people, especially children and elderly, suffered illness and death. People were uprooted from their homes and set adrift looking for work. There were soup kitchens and riots in the streets. Tyrants took advantage and instituted evil, totalitarian regimes. Wars were started. Millions were injured and killed.

Yet, when you talk with many people who lived through the Great Depression, they say that those times made them better and more virtuous. They look back to those difficult years with nostalgia. They remember people banding together, sharing what they had so that more people could have what they needed. They depended on their families and neighbors more. They learned to do more with less.

The Depression was a huge wake up for Americans, many of whom were lulled to sleep by the rich lifestyles they previously had. It was a time of reorientation and re-calibration. They learned the true value of things. They did not waste anything. They discerned between necessities and luxuries. They were frugal with their resources...their survival depended on it.

Those hard times were not chosen. By God’s providential grace they were imposed on them. And through them, God made a whole generation better able to survive the perilous times that followed.

Orthodox Great Lent is a chance for us to train for the future (both on earth and for Heaven), by learning now to live with less today. We can learn to be less vulnerable to loss, because we will learn that we can survive and prosper even if we lose everything. We learn that we can change our lifestyles.

As a church we will be renewed again if we rediscover that Jesus Christ is enough for us…that Our Lord Himself is our satisfaction.

Most if not all of us of us have been asleep. It is part of man’s fallenness to be sleepy travelers. Saint Paul says in the Epistle on Cheesefare Sunday: “now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

Haven’t we been asleep? Many of us have participated in the race to acquire stuff. Many took on debt to acquire things, the debt under which many retreat and groan over. Many have put their attention on the world and not on God and acquiring fulfilling spiritual lives.

Now it is time to wake up. The word “Lent” in English comes from an old German world for “spring.” Great Lent could also be called the “Great Awakening”... a time to wake up, to experience new birth, rejuvenation…to gain a living spring within us by a life recommitted to Christ.

Saint Paul also says, “the night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”  Saint Paul goes on to say that we should walk as people who are focused on positive things, who are assured about our destiny as Christians. We should walk carefully and soberly... because Jesus fought back and won for us a valuable life, worth taking care of.

We shall walk carefully, not with our passions as our guides, but as those who “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  He is the true pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He is the only one who can blaze a trail for us to follow to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Great Lent is upon is, and is more relevant than ever. It is a time to choose to live a harder life, if only a 40 or 50 day-stretch, so that we can re-calibrate and re-energize ourselves around Jesus Christ. It is time to toughen up and develop spiritual “grit.” Great Lent is a training camp, a valuable life-giving “boot camp." It is a time to wake up as Orthodox Christians and see that Jesus Christ wants to grant us great spiritual treasures that cannot be taken away. Let us press on after Christ and attain them.

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