Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Great Lent Week 4
Volume 7 No. 403 March 17, 2017
We are fast approaching the Mid Lent; it falls on next Wednesday (March 22). Holy Qurbana will be celebrated on that day. Once we cross the half-way point of the Great Lent, the rest will move at fast pace. In 15 days we will enter the Passion Week, starting with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. For the people who lined the sides of the road, Jesus was the King, who came from the Family of David, the promised Messiah. It was the day of celebration. In a few days, the joy and happiness will give way to fear and sadness to his disciples and followers. Jesus will be crucified and die on the cross! But again the grief turns to Joy on Easter Sunday when Jesus will conquer death and rise again. We will also encounter these different emotions as we prepare for the arrival of the Holy Week.

One difference you will see in the churches after the Mid Lent is that a structure will appear in the middle of the church - a cross flanked by two candles. We call it Golgotha. Golgotha reminds us that Jesus is the incarnated God who has come to our midst. He is there among us, not in the Madbaha. On Good Friday, Golgotha will move to the front of the church and will be crucified and buried. What a symbolism!!

The Half Lent is also a day when we exalt the holy cross. (The other day we exalt the cross is on Sleeba Festival Day, when the cross was discovered by the mother of Emperor Constantine.)

The importance of the cross on Mid Lent is explained by Alexander Schmemann:

At the "The Veneration of the Cross," the Cross is brought in a solemn procession to the center of the church and remains there till Good Friday. The theme of the Cross is developed in terms not of suffering but of victory and joy.

The meaning of this is clear. We are in Mid-Lent. One the one hand, the physical and spiritual effort, if it is serious and consistent, begins to be felt, its burden becomes more burdensome, our fatigue more evident. We need help and encouragement. On the other hand, having endured this fatigue, having climbed the mountain up to this point, we begin to see the end of our pilgrimage, and the rays of Easter grow in their intensity. Lent is our self-crucifixion, our experience, limited as it is, of Christ's commandment heard in Mark 8:34: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me". But we cannot take up our cross and follow Christ unless we have His Cross which He took up in order to save us. It is His Cross, not ours, that saves us. It is His Cross that gives not only meaning but also power to others. This is explained to us in the synaxarion of the Sunday of the Cross:

On this day, we celebrate the veneration of the honorable and Life-Giving Cross, and for this reason: inasmuch as in the forty days of fasting we in a way crucify ourselves.... and become bitter and despondent and failing, the Life-Giving Cross is presented to us for refreshment and assurance, for remembrance of our Lord's Passion, and for comfort.... We are like those following a long and cruel path, who become tired, see a beautiful tree with many leaves, sit in its shadow and rest for a while and then, as if rejuvenated, continue their journey; likewise today, in the time of fasting and difficult journey and effort, the Life-Giving Cross was planted in our midst by the holy fathers to give us rest and refreshment, to make us light and courageous for the remaining task.... Or, to give another example: when a king is coming, at first his banner and symbols appear, then he himself comes glad and rejoicing about his victory and filling with joy those under him; likewise, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to show us His victory over death, and appear to us in the glory of the Resurrection Day, is sending us in advance His scepter, the royal symbol-- the Life-Giving Cross-- and it fills us with joy and makes us ready to meet, inasmuch as it is possible for us, the King Himself, and to render glory to His victory.... All this in the midst of Lent which is like a bitter source because of its tears, because also of its efforts and despondency.... but Christ comforts us who are as it were in a desert until he shall lead us up to the spiritual Jerusalem by His Resurrection.... for the Cross is called the Tree of Life, it is the tree that was planted in Paradise, and for this reason our fathers have planted it in the midst of Holy Lent, remembering both Adams bliss and how he was deprived of it, remembering also that partaking of this Tree we no longer die but are kept alive....

Thus, refreshed and reassured, we begin the second part of Lent....

Adapted from 'Great Lent', by Alexander Schmemann, Chapter 4: The Lenten Journey.

So, let us continue our Lenten Journey. Malankara World will publish a special issue for the Mid Lent. You will get it on March 21.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World


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