a) overwhelmed with a sense of being ground down by the hopelessness of what we are trying to do, or
b) become complaisant (“we can relax a bit”) with our Lenten routine of fasting, praying, reading etc..
Simply put, these are temptations to slow down or stop us in our tracks from attending to our spiritual life, and run the risk of discouraging us from working at strengthening oneself for the sake of self preservation and comfort.
It is easier to think of oneself as not needing to become a better person, or not to treat the people around us like brothers or sisters, in the same way it is easier to have a nibble or so, on some of that Easter chocolate one bought on sale, or to have an extravagant coffee, rather than hold back for the sake of Christ and His passion.
But like all temptation there is no magic or quick fix. Rather we are coached, encouraged and prompted by the hymns, readings, and sacraments of the Church, but we still have to do the work. But this need not be impossible work that could stress us.
As we prepare for the Sunday of John Climacus (the Ladder), we are given an opprutinity to redouble our efforts. Not by great leaps of faith, and holiness, but just by putting one foot in front of the other, or in the example of this Sunday, climb the ladder one rung at a time.
We are for the most part not called to be through-and-through monastics during the fast, neither are we expected to see the uncreated light. For anyone who foolhardily tries for these kind of goals, your darn right they are going to feel hopeless, and complacent early into the journey. The Great Fast is not a sprint, it is an endurance race. And like any good runner, we start by putting one foot in front of the other and repeat the action. Or in good monastic fashion, “when we fall, we get up, when we fall, we get up…”.
Little things like making it to Church on time, remembering to give thanks at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reading a chapter or two of the Gospel a day, and praying for those who irritate you, or those who help you. These are the little things that, like putting one’s foot in front of the other, get us somewhere; and by God’s mercy may it be at the empty tomb on Christ’s most holy Resurrection.
May the Lord strengthen us in all the little things, leading us step by step.