This Sunday we begin our methodical and deliberate journey to the joyous feast of Pascha. Although Great Lent formally begins on March 2nd, we are given the three preceding Sundays as an opportunity to understand what it is that we are journeying too, why it is important, and what the journey asks of us.
Through these three Sundays of preparation for the fast, we encounter through scripture, and hymns the themes of: repentance, restoration, hope and love. We also encounter themes of pride, rejection, greed and indifference. All this is given to us that we might see what is of God and His love for us, and what is of our own brokenness and fear.
It is the recalling of our vocation of having put on Christ in our baptism, sealed by Holy Spirit in our Chrismation, and a communicant in Him through eating and drinking His Body and Blood.
This journey to Pascha, this journey to reclaim our vocation, starts with the example of humility exemplified by the Publican in the Gospel for this Sunday. It is humility and not pride that brings restoration to the publican, “a son of Abraham”. It is humility that brings restoration to us, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Lk. 19:9-10). Humility is the most important element in our journey, in our reclaiming our vocation in Christ. Without it, how can there be real repentance, how can there be any charity and love? There can’t.
Let us begin this journey, this recall of our vocation, with the humility of the Publican, and the assurance that “he who humbles himself will be exalted.”Exalted even on the third day, the Lord’s glorious Pascha.
Something to consider as we light our candles and are illumined by them in our celebration of the feast of the meeting of the Lord and the reception of the “Light to enlighten the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32)
“The candles lit before icons of saints reflect their ardent love for God for Whose sake they gave up everything that man prizes in life, including their very lives, as did the holy apostles, martyrs and others. These candles also mean that these saints are lamps burning for us and providing light for us by their own saintly living, their virtues and their ardent intercession for us before God through their constant prayers by day and night. The burning candles also stand for our ardent zeal and the sincere sacrifice we make out of reverence and gratitude to them for their solicitude on our behalf before God.”
+ St. John of Kronstadt
Blessing of candles.
It is always a joy for me, when I turn around to bless the faithful on a Sunday morning, and see our chandelier, and candle stands glowing with warmth and beauty of lit candles . Truly having lit candles in an Orthodox Chruch, is pretty much the expectation for the faithful attending services, and even those who are distantly engaged in the life of the Church, as candles manifest our prayers for family and friends, and our hope in the promise that “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it “ (Jn. 1:5). It is not as if, without candles our prayers and hope is in vain (obviously they are some Churches that can’t have candles, not to mention situations where open flame is not the smartest thing), but they help us visualize our love for friends and family, and the fact that even the smallest flame can bring clarity and hope in what the Lord does for us in dispelling the darkness of sin and death.
Before we celebrate the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the meeting of the Lord, we will bless candles and pray that by His grace and mercy, the light they share, glows with the same love we have for our neighbour, and a hope that does not disappoint (Heb. 6:18-19), in Christ’s saving victory over the darkness of sin and death.