This past Sunday was the second of the Lenten Triodion of the Orthodox Church. The Gospel lesson was from the Lord’s parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). This upcoming Sunday is the recognition of the Final Judgement and the last day that we are to freely consume meat (Meatfare) before the great fast.
It is one thing for a person to hit a spiritual rock bottom. It is another to reach that point and do something about it. In the parable, the younger son had squandered the premature inheritance given to him by his father on loose living. He has come to the point of taking a job feeding empty shells to unclean creatures and wished he could eat them. The friends that helped him waste his wealth are not around to aide him. It is here that the son remembers that even his father’s hirelings are well fed. It was a blessing for the young man to come to his senses. But, to recognize the goodness of the father without resolving and making the effort to humbly to his presence leaves the son in the pig pen.
Too often people hit spiritual rock bottoms and are unsure as to how to rise above them. It is easy to stop trying to break free of an addictive sin, especially one that seems minor or that is acceptable to society. Feeling remorse is not the same as repentance. Knowing that one is headed in the wrong direction is not the same as making a U-turn, or getting off the highway and changing course to the right direction. There are specific healings for particular sins. A spiritual father or mother may recommend certain scriptures and writings from the fathers. Some of us may need professional help as well.
In his recent book, The Prayer of a Broken Heart: An Orthodox Christian Reflection on African American Spirituality, Father Paul Abernathy highlights the power enslaved people gained in prayer and the fear it gave to their captors. Despite their weary labors and beatings, these men and women (and children) would make the effort to go to their “hush-harbors” and pray, sometimes to the very early morning. Enslavers knew the scriptures and that God answered the prayers of the broken hearted and contrite in spirit. They urged the enslaved to pray for the Confederacy. Yet, the enslaved poured out their hearts to God no matter the intimidation and threats from this world.
Knowing the obstacles my ancestors faced during the first 300 years of Christianity and those who came to this land in chains, who am I to make up lame excuses not to improve my prayer life? Even where I am consistent, I am not always as attentive as I should be. And what is stopping me from uniting to God as I should? It isn’t the threat of being thrown in a coliseum or tied to a whipping post. Usually, my own distractions that lead me into a pig pen of wasted time and sinful habits. As Great Lent approaches, now is the time for me to come to my senses and pray.