by Fionn Zarubica

baby-smiles-levittLet us begin the Fast with joy.
Let us give ourselves to spiritual efforts.
Let us cleanse our souls.
Let us cleanse our flesh.
Let us fast from passions as we fast from foods,
taking pleasure in the good works of the Spirit
and accomplishing them in love
that we all may be made worthy to see the passion of Christ our God
and His Holy Pascha,
rejoicing with spiritual joy.

This is the text I received today in my email.  It is sung at Vespers on Forgiveness Sunday, the last Sunday before the beginning of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church.

Let us begin the Fast with joy. 
Let us give ourselves to spiritual efforts.  
I am in!  Let us begin everything and anything with joy and give ourselves wholeheartedly to spiritual efforts!

Let us cleanse our souls. 
Let us cleanse our flesh. 

Cleansing is an important act of healing, particularly when there is something to cleanse. Perhaps we have lost our balance or gotten distracted and realignment is in order.  But, I just don't think we are soiled by default.

Cleanse my soul.  As far as I know my soul is neither dirty nor the problem.  It is one of the few things I can count on to be pre-cleansed and awaiting my remembrance.

Cleanse my flesh. The best cleansing we can do there is to release self-hatred, to love and nurture the vehicle we have been given, respect it, and that of others, and accept it in whatever shape it came in.  If we were made in the image of God, what except our own prejudices need cleansing?

Let us fast from passions…
I cannot support fasting from passions.  Maybe this is a translation thing because I am reasonably sure this hymn was translated into English from another language.

In English, passion is a word often used to describe fixation, obsession and suffering.  But , it can also be enthusiasm, which from its Greek root enthous means possessed by God!  Inspired!  Exactly what we need to get more into.  

…as we fast from foods, 
Fasting from certain foods on the other hand has its proven benefits, which have been encouraged in many spiritual practices.  Benefits ranging from the purely physical, to simplifying ones life in order to allow space for spiritual work and the loosening of ones earthly fetters.

Taking pleasure in the good works of the Spirit… 
This is definitely a positive and should be done all year.  

…accomplishing them in Love
Using Spirit as a role model for how we bring love through into in all that we do cannot miss.

That we may be worthy to see the passion of Christ our God…
Who isn’t worthy to see that?  If we follow the story even loosely there are several references that tell us that Christ’s Passion was undergone for all our sakes.  

… and His Holy Pascha,…  
Resurrection, revitalization, renewal, the fulfillment that belongs to all people.  

…rejoicing with spiritual joy.
Is there any other kind?

What struck me about this hymn was that as lovely as the message is it does not represent a contemporary spirituality, and in reflecting upon it I can see so clearly through it the evidence that we have truly moved into a new era. Consciousness change is more than a faddish notion.

People are waking up, discovering their personal divinity and accepting their innate goodness.  Preparation and self-reflection are considered basic pursuits and approached continually. No longer is it necessary to first decry ourselves in order to then experience the peace that is there for everyone.

Lent is a precious time and a challenging passage for those who observe it. It can be an opportunity for cleansing and growing on many levels.  But, rather than becoming immersed in how bad we are, I see it as a time to become immersed in how good we are.

We are beautiful, life is beautiful and LOVE is all that matters!

Image: Helen Levitt (1913 – 2009)

Read In Serbian >