This week has been an amazing preparation for Great Lent.
It began, rather innocuously enough, on last Sunday after Divine Liturgy. I had run back upstairs to catch Father so as to have him refill our bottle of holy water. Having accomplished my mission, Eva, who had taken up the baskets which had contained the antidoron, offered me one of the pieces remaining. I took it.
You should know that it has been my practice, up until Sofie’s birth, to take home a piece of antidoron, when I could, to consume a bit each day through the week. But since Sofie’s birth, my observance of Morning Prayer has been nonexistent–except for sporadic bursts here and there. During the previous months, I would take home antidoron, intending to follow the pious custom I’d been habituated to, but almost always failing to do so, with the result that I would almost unfailingly have dry, mouldy antidoron to deal with each week. So I stopped taking any antidoron home.
But I have, of late, been convicted of my lack of prayer, especially since Sofie is on a more regular schedule, and my lack is not a matter of attending to her needs so much as the inertia of lethargy. Eva’s offering to me, then, was something like an act of faith. “Okay, God, clearly you want me to get back into the habit of prayer, and are offering me this blessed bread as symbol and incentive.”
And as it turned out, by God’s grace, I did observe Morning Prayer each day this week, and also midday prayers. (Though Evening Prayer was the almost non-existent practice.)
But this isn’t about my prayer practice so much as it’s about God’s preparing me for Lent. Which brings us to Monday night and the Mel Gibson interview. It’s been commented on elsewhere, and I even noted it earlier this week, so I’ll just say that the bringing of the Gospel to a media where one does not expect to hear it in it’s undiluted forthrightness was yet another encouragement to me.
The next instance was at the departmental colloquy on Wednesday at Loyola. Billed as a panel discussion of “religion without God?” (the question mark was original), one assumed one would go and hear talk about the death of metaphysics and the place for religion in light of that reality. And the first couple of speakers pretty much met everyone’s initial expectations. But when Dr. Paul Moser, our department chair, came to his turn to speak, the entire dynamic changed. He recounted the tragedy that struck New Trier high school this week, as one of its students committed suicide. Dr. Moser asked, “What do we say to Alyssa’s sister who found Alyssa hanging from the ceiling of her bedroom? What sort of everlasting hope can we give to her? And if our philosophy or our belief system cannot give it to her, then perhaps we would not be mistaken to find one that could?”
I knew by way of departmental gossip that Dr. Moser had, in recent years, come to a renewed Christian faith. But I had no idea that he was so bold as to engage in the holy practice of Christian polemic. (I only found at later that Dr. Moser maintains a website entitled “Idolaters’ Anonymous.” As he put it to me, the website annoys those who rely on their own wisdom.)
For the second time this past week, the Gospel had been preached in a context I least expected it.
The resultant email correspondence between Dr. Moser and myself was a continuation of that encouragement, and I hope in the near future to speak with him more.
But clearly all these things were portents of what is about to occur in Lent: God is coming to invade every nook and cranny of my life. My idle curiosity and TV leisure time? God invaded. My professional/academic world? God invaded. My religious world? God invaded. There is no area of my living in which the Gospel will not be spoken, and having been spoken will not claim and reclaim my life.
I expect it will be painful. But yet I have been given to face it with expectant anticipation.
God is good and loveth mankind.
And I can only say, “Glory to God in the highest.”