This Sunday past provides for an interesting challenge for priests. It has two different names, seemingly focused on two different and unrelated things. The first is meat fare, or the last day we can eat meat until Pascha. The second is the Sunday of the last Judgement. Clever homilists see the connection between the two, as our new pastor did this last weekend. I’m not going to reiterate that sermon, especially as he utilized visuals that I can’t reproduce so well within this blog. As I sit here, near the beginning of Great Lent, thoughts of the last judgement come to mind. I suspect that is why the Church established the Sunday of the Last Judgement – as we enter into our preparations for the annual commemoration of the Resurrection, we should be considering what will happen when it is our turn.
It is common in our culture to spend the end of the calendar year reflecting on the preceding year. However, in the midst of feasting, and with feasting in front of us for a while, I find it difficult to focus on proper reflection. I think that the beginning of the Lenten Triodion is a much superior time. The tenor of the services for the next six weeks will be very penitential, followed by the bridegroom services of Holy Week, which will force us to consider whether we are ready for the Bridegroom, the Great Judge, to come.
As I look over the past year, I am amazed at the opportunities that presented themselves, and how I managed to pass up on most of them. These opportunities, of course, were both positive and negative. On the positive side, we had a truly phenomenal interim pastor, who offered a great number of services and classes. Although I tried to avail myself of as many of the services as possible, I certainly did not expend enough effort to just be in his presence and hear what he had to say. Even with the services, I do not believe I really made the effort to be prayerful. If anything, over the last year, I have spent less time in prayer than I should have. While it is always the case that one should spend more time in prayer, when challenging times arrive it is even more important to do so.
With the fast upon us, of course, I must also look at my progress in overcoming the passions. After a broken leg at the end of 2010, and with plenty of time off after the layoffs at work, I had a perfect opportunity to focus time and energy on managing my diet, losing weight, and exercising. Unfortunately, I did none of these. As a result, I am on a protracted recovery from stress fractures that are keeping me off of my trike for probably 3 months. What foolishness!
So now the annual great opportunity is upon us (I think that should be my new name for Lent.). I pray that I utilize this time to get focused on the right priorities.