Remember me O my Lord,
Remember me O my God,
Remember me O my King,
When you come into Your Kingdom!
(Response of the Praxis for the Weekends of Lent - Coptic Tradition)
Brothers and sisters, the Blessed Forty Days are upon us!The epitome of spiritual vigour is at hand! Brothers and sisters the goal and the aim has been set before us! Let us open our eyes to the beauty and subtly of the message of the Church. Let us possess the mind of the Church, which is the mind of Christ!
Over the past week the Church has sought to prepare us for this glorious and sublime time, culminating with the resounding message of the Gospel lesson of the Sunday of Preparation in which our almighty Lord, exhorts us to “Seek first the kingdom of God.” With this etched into our minds the Church then continues on the Morning of the First Day of the Holy Forty to give us a glimpse into the Kingdom which we are to seek, the very same Kingdom that both the Forerunner and the Lamb proclaimed its entrance into the world with their preaching “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. It is also the very same Kingdom that the Lord of all taught us to pray for its coming “Thy Kingdom come” and finally the very same Kingdom that the Wise Thief stole as he cried to He who is the King, “Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”
Today in the Morning Prophesies we continued the story of Moses’ encounter with God.This morning my brothers and sister, Moses approached the Bush that was burning yet not consumed. This morning Moses conversed with the One who enflamed the bush. This morning Moses saw, He whose Kingship constitutes the Kingdom which is to be sought by all.
The Church from the very outset of the Holy Great Fast draws our eyes instantly to the very purpose of our journey down the Lenten road. In Orthodoxy, we know the ending of the story, we know the glory that awaits, we do not walk blindly not knowing what is coming, but sure footed we know that the journey and the destination are aligned together as one. That the ending is also discovered in the journey. For us the Kingdom is not only come but is present in the Living Church, for the Kingdom is at Hand. For the Kingdom is none other than the knowledge of God, the intimate knowledge of His Name. Moses being our prototype who entering the journey of escape, the journey of Exodus, the journey of release from the bondage of our passions, begins his journey by asking God for His name. And we as members of the Living Church now know that name, a name that we do not only call but live. As the blessed Apostle Paul proclaims to the Church on the first Sunday of Lent, that Love fulfils all. For Love is the Kingdom. As Paul on the road to Damascus, when the light of Love touches our eyes we will be blind to all else. Only when we have experienced light of the Kingdom will we be able to say with Paul, "Lord, what do You want me to do?"
Let us not after a week of preparation begin to have our resolve questioned! This morning the Church has given us a morsel of unending joy and peace. She has revealed to us the name of He who is beyond all comprehension and all language. She has given us the pearl of great price. She has given us the name which could not be uttered by those of the Old Testament, the name which the high priest would whisper once a year in the Holy of Holies while the entire congregation chanted with loud voices in order that no one hear the Divine Name. She has given us the Name of He who is the one offering and the one offered on our behalf in order that we may commune with Him in His Kingdom.
As we enter further into the depths of repentance let not the vigour of your souls be shaken. Let us not enter into the disgruntlement which comes from a lack of food and comfort. Let us, with great joy, bear in mind the intimate knowledge of God that awaits us as we progress on this Lenten Journey. Therefore, our Lenten journey, brothers and sister is supposed to be marked with serenity, a peace and a confidence that surpasses all human reasoning.
The peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, for Thine is the glory forever.
This time of fasting has been given to us to return back to the Kingdom that has been given to us at our Illumination, our Baptism. The seal of the gift of the Spirit that has marked us as citizens of the Victorious Kingdom, members of the eternal Body, branches which bear fruit in the Vineyard. Let us cry out to the Lord and say “Thy own of Thy own we offer unto You!” This life, this time is given to us, to be given back in total doxologia (glory/worship) and evkharistia (thanksgiving) to the Lord, who has provided all for us. Let us remember Adam and the Paradise from which he was expelled, and longing for the scent of Paradise run towards the Tree of Life, which stands in the midst of the Kingdom. Run to the Cross, my brethren, and seek to be slain on behalf of the world, that in perfect imitation of the Lamb, we may be privy to the peace that is beyond understanding, which emanates from the Word who called out to Moses and revealed Himself to him. It is by standing before the consuming fire of Divinity that we we come to the realisation of our own incapability. Love cannot be attained by my own fallen nature. As Eve wished to become like God, Christ revealed the nature of the Divinity on the life-giving Cross. Christ revealed that if we wish to be like God, that we must Love the same sacrificial-love of God. And this Divinity has revealed itself to us, the All-Holy Trinity has been made known to man, through the Incarnate Logos and continues to be revealed and experienced within the existence of His Church.
Thus the natural position of the soul is of one who acknowledges that it is reliant on the Lord, the Master and King of life and Love. This is also reinforced by the response of the Praxis reading of the Saturdays and Sundays of the Great and Holy Fast of Lent:
Remember me O my Lord, Remember me O my God, Remember me O my King, When you come into Your Kingdom!
Taking on the voice of the Wise Thief, Dimas, the Church again affirms its position as the gathering of the penitential, repentant servants of Him who has been revealed to us as the Master, no longer awaiting but members of the Christ the inaugurator of the Kingdom.
This is the Joy of the Church, this is the revelation which was beginning to unfold before the eyes of Moses. The bush, the I AM, the staff, the Exodus, the Law, the Bronze Serpent, the Manna, the Water from a Rock, the meeting place of God with Man, the Tent of Assembly and the list continues. This is the comfort of the Church, the peace and love that evades the heart of the truly repentant, that from the moment of the expulsion from the garden, the Lord had "not abandoned us till the end, but had always visited us…” a fact that surpasses even the grandest of minds, yet given to those small babes. The Joy of the Church is in the comfort, the love and the presence of her Master, the same peace that a child feels in the arms of their parents, in the sound of their familiar voice calling out in the darkness of sorrow or fear. A voice and a touch of radical, unwavering, unconditional love, which stemmed from before their existence or entrance into the world. This is the Kingdom, this is the name of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, it is when we take up the stance of repentance, when we bend our knees and offer freely to the Master our very being through metanoia, through the physical stance of prostrations constantly falling at His feet that the bosom of the Father is opened and that we, the prodigal, may arise from the pig pen, arise out of our exile, arise out of fear and anxiety and meet with Him, Who runs along the way to meet those who are returning and as a consequence, great joy and peace erupts, as with the sheep, the coin and the son.
In the abounding love of Christ.
Monday, 23 February 2015 - 16 Amshir 1731
The First Day of the Blessed and Great Forty Days of the Fast of Lent
Departure of Elizabeth the Prophetess and Mother of the Forerunner