We need to recognise that as Christians, if we are truly following Christ, not just abandoning him at the Cross, denying him or God forbid betraying Him, we will receive the same insults. Even Pilate would not remove that charge which he pinned to the Cross, Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews, though the crowd protested.
In a few hours, I’ll arrive at The Orthodox Christian Parish of the Holy and Life Giving Cross at Lancaster (United Kingdom), accompanying the Byzantine St Anysia Choir from Thessaloniki for Pascha; this choir also visited last year to help with the worship, particularly the long, demanding Holy Week services. We will also bring with us a hand crafted Icon, a comb and a prayer rope, all by St Paisios of Mount Athos, a Reliquary for containing these holy relics, and a handwritten Icon of his. We will also bring on loan for Holy Week a piece of St. Paisios’ clothing, his undershirt, from another Monastery in Greece.
I am deeply moved by the fact that I am ‘carrying’ my patron Saint, Saint Paisios, though the truth is that the Saints carry us! This is the nearest that people will get to venerating Saint Paisios since his body is not to be disturbed in Souroti.
I am still packing, since so many monasteries in Greece have overwhelmed us with their generosity, and there are so many blessings, candles, incense, icons, secondary relics etc. to bring to the UK!
The hectic days to follow at the Holy Cross parish will take away from me all phone connections and internet, but they will give me in return a precious chance to shut the world away and lock myself in the heavy, crushing silence of the Holy Week.
Before I do that, I want to wish you with all my heart to enjoy a Blessed, Life-Changing Holy Week and Easter!
I must admit that I am very tired. I feel tired, vulnerable and afraid, with no control over anything. I am so exhausted! Indeed, “Lent is a horrid period. Year by year, Lent is when some force within me pushes me out of my comfort zones, and I find myself in a lions’ den, face to face with the beasts, utterly unprepared to fight, totally helpless, fully aware that the only possible outcome is to be slaughtered.”
Slaughtered indeed! This is exactly what I feel! A corpse!
“This is nothing new. This happens every year. Yet, I somehow survive, because the same Force that pushes me out of my self-created kingdoms, out of my self-created games – that same Force saves me from those wild beasts at the last moment.”
And this changes everything.
And yet, every time, I forget all about this, and I experience such despair and death, just before God intervenes! As if He has utterly forsaken me!
Now I understand why one focus of the Resurrection icon is Christ’s hands, pulling Adam and Eve! I desperately need this Hand to pull me out of this Hell!Weak and Fallen! In such a desperate need of healing, repentance, an intervention, a meeting with my spiritual father, a literal falling into his arms, the Sacrament of Confession! Is this who I really am? How can just 40 days reduce me to this? Is this the real starting point of my change, repentance and redemption?
Deep in my heart, I bitterly realise that no healing is possible. No repentance is possible. No prayer is possible, until the heart that heals, repents and prays is my sinful, fallen, yet beating heart. False images do not have hearts. False images do not love. Most painful than all, false images will never reflect Christ, because there is nothing false in Christ, nothing common between Life and void. Prayer begins with pain at one’s fallen nature; it grows out of this pain, and its flowers bloom out of it.The taste of ashes in my mouth. Am I, fallen and depraved and sinful that I am, still the image of the Immortal God?
I need to hold on, just a little bit more, to the Living God, and may His immortal image remain within me. It may then reflect on me, bless me and I may grow into it. Day by day, year by year, I may grow into this image, and be more Christ-like. Then His Life will be mine, His Resurrection will be mine.
So many miles to go before I sleep!
If you have ever experienced such confusion and fallenness, have courage and pray for me. Let us all fight in our body and spirit. His Resurrection is real, and it is coming. In His Resurrection we shall all be one!