Doing more, does more.

Etching of the Lord feeding the five thousand.

There is a thought that with the beginning of Great Lent, everything changes in regard to our Orthodox Christian life.  I suppose there is an aspect to this that is true; after all, the character of some of our services change, different melodies are sung and scriptures read; even the light and gold vestments and coverings are changed to purple (or a darker colour). Yet if we look at Great Lent as having a particular function in the Church year, as opposed to being a unique or extraordinary time, we will see that we actually don’t change many things; rather we “do more” that we might clearly see and understand how much the Lord loves us. 

Fasting from certain food and activities is a regular part of our Orthodox Christian life, yet Great Lent calls us to do more, by fasting more comprehensively. Throughout the year, we pray and read daily scripture readings, but Great Lent calls us to do more praying and reading of scripture. Throughout the year, we give freely of our treasures to those in need, yet Great Lent calls us to do more, in caring for the needy. We faithfully attend Church on Sunday mornings (truly a miracle in this day and age), yet Great Lent calls us to do more, by offering us many more beautiful services. We confess before the Lord our need of His mercy, forgiveness, and life, by offering our sins in repentance; but Great Lent calls us to do more, by examining our conscience more diligently through the sacrament of confession.

Yet the greatest, and most pressing effort that Great Lent calls us to might also be the hardest: to love. Truly, it is love that is the foundation of everything humanity strives for (mercy, peace, forgiveness, healing, unity, etc), and our life in the Church is no different in this respect. Yet Great Lent calls us to not just foster and cultivate the love of God and neighbour, but rather do more in seeking to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (Jn.4:10).

All of Great Lent (and by extension, our Christian lives) hang on this virtue alone (Cf. 1 Cor. 13). Truly this is the context for everything we do as Christians. Doing those things that bear witness to the love of God and neighbour alike, does more, in transforming the grief and sorrow of the cross (and all the world’s evil)  to the unending praise and thanksgiving of the Resurrection (and the victory of Christ over that evil).

Doing more fasting, even if it is as simple as reducing one’s servings to half portions, does more; in bringing us closer to the Lord, who offers us Himself, “the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35)

Doing more praying and reading scripture, even if it is as small as reading a Psalm each day, saying the Lord’s prayer or the Lenten prayer of St. Ephriam, does more in revealing the “words of Eternal life” (Jn. 6:68) and the Kingdom to come (Mt. 6:10).

Doing more works of mercy, in even giving some change to a beggar and asking their name (so as to pray for them), does more,  in serving the Lord himself in the least of His brethren (Mt. 25:40).

Doing more services, even if it’s attending only one of the midweek service in Great Lent, does more, in revealing that the content of every moment in our lives is truly  “the accepted time;” and “the day of salvation”(2 Cor. 6:2).

Doing more confession, even if it for the smallest source of shame, does more, to help us see that  “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world (and us), but that the world (and us) through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:17) 

Doing more love, even when we patiently respond with love to anger or indifference at even the smallest transgression, does more, for abiding in love, we abide in God (Jn. 4:26)

Nothing really changes in Great Lent in regard to what we do; with one profound exception. In doing more of those normal parts of our life in Christ, it does more for us; it changes us! 

 “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:53-55)

Truly Great Lent reveals that  this “change” isn’t necessarily the correction needed to get to the Resurrection of our Lord,  but rather as reason for the Cross, passion, death and Resurrection of our Lord on that blessed and Holy third day.

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