As we (Orthodox Christians) enter the last week of Lent prior to Holy Week, I wanted to post a few random thoughts/prayers that I wrote out this morning pertaining to the essence of Lent and Pascha (Easter). Why do we fast? Why do we lament? Why do we recognize these things? I hope you find these short snippets of my thoughts/prayers to help provide a tiny answer to those questions.
On the Moral Nature of Man
What is man if nothing more than a tree? If we lose our roots, then we become nothing more than fuel for a fire. You, O Lord, are our roots. You are the fertile soil for our wooden souls. It is in You that we grow. But our sin, our passions, everything contrary to You is the wind that uproots us, that rips us from our soil, and it is then that we become deadwood, something to kindle the fire of the Enemy’s rebellion.
We have sought to create for ourselves our own reality. A false creation! A garbage heap! A simulacrum! You are Reality, it is You we seek, but like the wandering tribes in the exodus from Egypt we create golden idols and act like they are You. What folly there is in the desires of man.
On the Created Nature of Man
There are those who say we are evil in our nature. They say your first children tainted our very essence, that there is no good to be found in us. But You said we were very good and in us You found enough goodness to die for. And if we were evil by nature, then how could we say that we sin? All evil actions would be inevitable, it would be in keeping with who we are. There would be no sin if we were evil. Instead, we are as You created us. We are good, very good, in our nature. And this is why we call sin evil, because it is any action that goes against our created purpose. We are morally evil only because we are by nature good.
On God’s Resolution
Into the darkness, You spoke light. Into nothingness, You spoke everything. Into the void, You spoke fulfillment. Into the chaos, You spoke order. Into the violence, You spoke peace. What is sin if not the attempt to undo all you have spoken? Death is the only conclusion to such actions. And yet, into the death, You spoke Life.
On the Two Gardens of Humanity
In the Garden of Eden, man rebelled against You and was cast out. In the Garden of Gethsemane, man rebelled against You and was found. In the first Garden, man sought to be like You. In the second Garden, man sought to kill You. In the first Garden, man needed a covering for his nakedness. In the second Garden, the covering for man’s nakedness was given. In the first Garden, man sweat out of fear for Your judgement. In the second Garden, You sweat blood out of compassion and our redemption. In the first Garden, man sinned to be equal to You. In the second Garden, You died so we could be like You. In the first Garden, man lost his way. In the second Garden, You found man.
The pursuit of Good, the pursuit of You, is nothing more than an attempt to get back to our nature, to who we are meant to be. But our wills are not aligned with Your will and so our actions are contrary to You. Yet You have supplied a way to transcend our very selves, to be like You. As Your servant St. Athanasius said, “God became man so that man might become God.” Your servant St. Maximus the Confessor has said, “Man becomes like God in all things except essence and being.” You created us for Yourself and in our redemption we become all for You and therefore become like You, not by nature, but by grace. Our desire for salvation should not be out of want of Heaven or fear of Hell, but out of a desire to be united to You.