During the Great Lent the Church makes an effort to wake us up to repentance. Heart-penetrating services, canons and frequent readings from the Old Testament are the tools for coming to realization of our sinfulness. The examples from the Old Testament caution us and, based on the experience of thousands of years, point us to the only way of grace: the way of communion with God.
God led the Jewish people to His Truth and Righteousness by means of various tribulations, long years of slavery and devastating diseases. All of the Old Testament is the story of God’s Righteousness punishing for sin and showing mercy. But despite such a multitude of punishments, the Jewish people often hardened their hearts and did not want to receive God’s rebuke.
Such hardening of heart can also be observed amongst us today. The Lord strikes us with tribulations, pours grief upon the stone-like ground of our heart, so that it may be ploughed and made ready to receive the seed of God’s grace; i.e. our hearts are often not receptive to the mercy of the Lord, even when He is showing us mercy in obvious ways. Like animals, we are still possessed by the fear of death, but do we fear God’s Judgment? The Lord is waiting for us to see in our troubles the axe and mercy of God, not just a coincidence.
Thus comparing the Old Testament with our time, we can see than both then and now the Lord cares for His people, not allowing them to perish in carelessness and iniquity. In various ways He leads us to repentance, calls us to again be united with Him, Who is the Source of life. Truly the love of God surpasses human understanding! His love goes to the extent that, according to the prophet Isaiah, for the sake of His chosen ones, for the sake of a small part of the people, He spares the whole people. For the sake of a few saints the kingdom shall stand. Thus God was leading his servants, showing Himself sometimes as a terrible and rebuking Judge, and sometimes as Merciful and All-Forgiving for the sake of man, to establish righteousness on the earth. (Indeed, there is yet another aspect of love, its protective power.)
If the Lord cared so much for his servants, does he not care even more for His sons? The Old Testament is slavery; the New Testament is sonship. We are no longer slaves in the Master’s house, but sons in the Father’s home. A slave strives only to please his master, and their relationship is measured by the slave’s work. But a son has a closer relationship with the father and is afraid of insulting him not only by action, but also by intention, lest he be separated from the love of the father; his relationship with the father is measured by feelings and thoughts. Yet to whom more was given, of him more will be asked. "We are children of God, but it has not yet been revealed what we will become,"-says the apostle; we have been given a lot, and it is up to us to multiply the Lord’s gift. It is up to us to set our feet on the warrior path, the path of the warriors of Christ, fighting on the battlefield of our hearts for the Truth and Righteousness of God. It is up to us to make a good beginning, since the Lord appreciates even our intentions, and everything else we will be able to do with the help of God’s grace.
Our weapon is frequent prayer, creative prayer beyond a mechanical repetition of memorized words. The Holy Church offers such prayers to us in the touching services of the Great Lent. The goal of our struggle is to acquire the inner peace of the soul. When peace finds home in our hearts, then we begin our blessed journey toward communion with God. The state of communion with God is so great, that this communion itself is our reward, the Kingdom of Heaven inside of us. This is what the Lord has called us to, so that here on earth we could in separate moments acquire eternity for ourselves. Amen.