>(Scroll down to read about the letters A-I.)
“Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.”– Fr. Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World.
“And we must recover the meaning of of this great joy…. Joy, however, is not something one can define or analyze. One enters into joy.” (Schmemann, cont.)
James 2:1 says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Lent brings its own kind of trials—some circumstantial, some self-inflicted, some just the pain we feel when we deny our spoiled bodies the over-abundance of creature comforts to which they are accustomed.
For Orthodox Christians, Lent is a season of “bright sadness.” It’s not about self-flagellation and having a long face. In fact, the Scriptures say that “when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting….” (Matthew 6:17-18)
Lent is about joy in the midst of suffering. It’s about overcoming weakness.
I just found this story on You Tube about a man named Dan Miller, who was stricken with polio. He reminds me a little bit of a friend of mine who has post polio syndrome. He’s an artist. And he built his family’s home with his own hands. He’s a joyful person—I’ve never heard him complain. So, whether or not you’re into Gaither-style testimonies and music (which I’m not) please give this video a watch/listen. It’s called “Joy Comes in the Morning.”
The Lenten Spring by Father Thomas Hopko
Devotions for Lent
Ruminations on Lent: “Bright Sadness”
The Letter J is also for Journey—our Lenten Journey. Father Alexander Schmemann says that when we go on a journey we must know where we are going. The Lenten journey leads to Easter—to Pascha. He addresses this concept of bright sadness in his book, Great Lent:
“A journey, a pilgrimage! Yet, as we begin it, as we make the first step into the “bright sadness” of Lent, we see — far, far away — the destination. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom. And it is this vision, the foretaste of Easter, that makes Lent’s sadness bright and our Lenten effort a “spiritual spring.” The night may be dark and long, but all along the way a mysterious and radiant dawn seems to shine on the horizon. Glory be to God!”
Pascha is only 5 weeks from Sunday. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize, like the
Olympic athletes who keep on going, even in the face of intense political pressures, personal tragedies and physical injuries.
And then when they finish, the JOY on their faces tells it all.
Hebrews 11 is a great Hall of Fame for spiritual athletes who finished the
course. Like them, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the JOY that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
For the JOY set before Him. May God help us recover and enter into His joy as we continue our Lenten journey.