Volume 3 No. 128 March 6, 2013
Special Edition: Mid-Lent If the Journal is not displayed properly, please click on the link below (or copy and paste) to read from web
Table of Contents
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Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:Week 4 of Great Lent9. About Malankara World
|Mid-Lent (Twenty Fifth Day of the Great Lent)|
The 25th day of the lent is known as mid lent (Paathi Nombu in Malayalam). This is one of the very few days during the Great Lent that the Holy Qurbana is celebrated on a weekday other than Sunday or Saturday. Liturgy for mid-lent includes a procession around the church carrying a cross. The procession is followed by a service known as 'exaltation of the cross' (sleeba aaghosham in Malayalam). The cross is then placed on a big decorated cross like stand covered with a red/crimson cloth in the middle of the the church. This structure is called Golgotha. There are several significances to the erection of Golgotha.
The Bible Reading for mid-lent says: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3: 14-15. Jesus predicted his eventual crucifixion to his disciples in this verse.
Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the middle of the desert (wilderness) around the middle of the Exodus - the journey of the Israelites from slavery to their promised land. He lifted up the serpent so that those who were bitten by the snake might look at it and have life. Similarly, the cross (Jesus) is lifted up in the middle of the church so that we are reminded that those who are bitten by sin can look at Jesus and gain eternal life through Him.
At mid-lent, we, the body of the Christ, have walked halfway to the feast of Salvation, namely Easter, the conquering of death by Jesus Christ, Son of God. This is a long journey. We had been fasting for 25 days. It is natural, that we may feel fatigue and irritated. Like Israelites during the Exodus, we may have an urge to complain against the discipline required during the lent (especially since other churches do not have such stringent requirements during lent as Syrian Orthodox Church.) So, the reading of the Gospel of John 3 during the Mid-Lent services is quite relevant and appropriate. It is time for us to examine our lives, our spiritual discipline, prayers, our interaction with others, and our charitable endeavors (alms-giving) etc. during the Holy Lent.
The Golgotha and erection of cross in the church signifies that God came down from heaven and dwelt among us in this world. This is why the Golgotha is in the middle of the church with us, the common folks, and not in the Madbaha as we normally expect to find it. It is going to be in the middle of the church till Good Friday (representing the Public Ministry of Jesus) when it will be taken to Calvary for crucifixion and then buried. On Easter, Jesus rose from the dead. The cross will be placed in the Madbaha for another 40 days till the Feast of Ascension. Between the Easter and Ascension, Jesus only revealed to selected people (no public ministry as earlier), so the veiled cross will be seen only in the Madbaha during this time.
Thus, the cross that the Church elevates in her midst at Mid Lent is the cross that will be used for burial of the Lord on Good Friday, for the resurrection on Easter and for His ascension after 40 days from Easter. So, this cross will remain actively in the Church for 65 days. As stated, this cross is the sacramental and sacrificial presence of Jesus Christ, the God Incarnate, in the midst of the Holy Lent.
Just like when the Israelites looked at the brazen serpent they were able to be healed, the cross has the power to heal and give life too. But, according to St. John, gazing upon the cross isn't enough.
You need to have faith. You need to be moved to believe. Which is, of course, what the entire third chapter of John is all about.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Another tradition associated with the feast of Mid Lent is the story of King Abgar the Black. This is alluded to during the readings and songs in the liturgy for the Mid Lent. The tradition is that Abgar the King had an ailment and he wanted Jesus to heal him. King also came to know that the Jews were actively seeking to kill Jesus. King Abgar offered to provide safe-haven to Jesus at Edessa or Uraha (known as Sanli Urfa in present day Eastern Turkey). This offer from King Abgar came 25 days before the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the church tradition.
Jesus declined the offer from Abgar to run away from Jerusalem and live in Edessa. Jesus knew that he came here to fulfill the God's plan for redemption of mankind that included offering as sacrifice for the sins of the world. Escaping from Jerusalem didn't fit Jesus' plans. Jesus appreciated the good intent of King Abgar in offering safe haven. He sent back a towel with His face imprinted upon it miraculously through the Royal Emissary. Since the communication between Jesus and Abgar the Black happened 25 days before the feast of Resurrection, it happened on the day we celebrate Mid-Lent. So, we recall this incident in our Mid-Lent services.
King Abgar is one of the very first who believed in Jesus without seeing Him and without doubting. He is considered by the church as a saint. Three years after the ascension of the Saviour, St. Thaddeus (also known as St. Addai), one of the Seventy disciples, was sent to King Abgar. The king and his subjects became Christians. Edessa became the first Christian country.
Before Holy Qurbana
Sermons for Mid-Lent
The Midpoint of Lent
What if I'm at the midpoint of Lent and not much is going on?
I began with the best of intentions, but I am not sure what I'm doing or what I want to be doing. Can my Lent be "rescued"? Can a seven week journey be completed in the remaining next two or three weeks - waiting for my heart to be open? Of course, the answer is "yes." It doesn't take long for God, when we are ready.
How to begin again
The first step to beginning again has already begun, if I have the desire for something real during Lent. A therapist once said that "we get better when we get tired of not being better." This isn't the same as "guilt." Feeling guilty for not doing much about Lent won't get us very far. What we need is a real desire - a real sense of expectation that God has something for me to hear, to learn, to change, and I want to be ready to listen.
This desire can co-exist with fear, with resistance, with bad habits that have been obstacles in the past. God doesn't need much of an opening to begin to free us and show us a transforming love.
A little desire is enough to shape deeper desires.
Once we can say we want to make something of these precious days remaining in Lent, then we can start naming some more specific desires.
For some of us, it is obvious. There is a big, glaring self-defeating pattern staring us in the face. Most of the time, however, it takes a little reflection, a bit of honest examination of conscience to really see what is getting in the way of my being a follower of Jesus.
After some reflection, I might admit that there is a streak of stubbornness or impatience or harshness that keeps putting me at odds with people. Perhaps there is an old wound or a fresh experience of hurt or loss that has turned into a festering anger that robs me of simple joys and sorrows or compassion for suffering of others. Maybe I am obsessed with how I look - how others see me - and my choices each day are guided by what will make other people like me, and my mood each day goes up and down depending upon people's response to me. I might somehow know that I'm compensating for some emptiness or loneliness or sadness or insecurity by trying to fill in what is missing with quite temporary satisfaction – over-eating, drinking too much, escaping in sexual fantasy or pornography or masturbation. Perhaps I know that my conflicts with my spouse are getting to a bad place, but because my spouse won't do what I want him/her to do - won't be self-sacrificing in loving me - so I refuse to die to myself in loving him/her. Or it might have gotten worse – to the point that I’m punishing him/her by my silence or withdrawal of attention, affection, time. And, maybe a homily or something I read recently made me realize that I really have not paid attention to the needs of the poor - and perhaps I've even taken stands and voted against issues and candidates who stand on the side of the poor. After some reflection, I may just realize I'm not very grateful for what has been given me, and therefore, I'm just not very happy, generous or free.
Lent begins when I can say "Help me Lord!"
Now I can turn to the Lord, with some real, concrete desires. Now I can practice waking up each morning and naming a desire - while I'm putting on my slippers, or taking a shower or getting dressed: "Lord, it feels so good to be honest with myself before you. Let me know your presence today. Help me face the challenges that will be there today. Give me some more freedom to make different choices, and act on the graces you are giving me, to refrain from escaping, but rather to give myself to loving, as you have loved me." Imagine all the different prayers like that - one minute long - that would shape our day! With these desires to let God's grace transform me, then I can pause before going to bed each night, and look back through the day to thank God for the places I felt God's presence and help.
Source: Creighton University - Praying Lent
All of us have, at one time or another, named certain things as our "priorities." From time to time, when we become aware of our not doing something that is really important, we say, "I have to make that a priority." Lent is an important time to do a top-to-bottom review of what we value and what we actually do, in our every day lives. Whenever we do this, we always discover that something needs re-aligning.
We discover that there are values we hold, commitments we've made, growth we desire, that simply don't make it on the list of our "actual priorities" - that is, the things that take the "first place" in our lives. For example, I might say, "My family is my first priority!" My family might say otherwise. I might say, "My faith is among my top priorities." But, an honest self-examination may show otherwise. I may say, I hear the words of Jesus that we will be judged really on only one thing: how we care for "the least" of his sister and brothers. I may only occasionally even notice that feeding, clothing, caring for or defending the marginal never makes it to my priority list.
A thorough review of what is most important to us, and what seems to be important to us by virtue of what we actually do, is prime Lenten activity. If what we are hoping to do during Lent is to grow in personal freedom, based upon our growing sense of God's love for us, and our clearer vision of who we are, and our deepening desire to be more closely aligned with the heart of Jesus, then we will want to do this personal review very carefully. How else might we ever hope to get to a heroic, courageous, self-sacrificing following of others? What chance will care of the poor ever have of making it into our priorities? How will we ever be able to break old self-defeating habits and secure the establishment of new ones that help us be who we want to actually be?
I can start a variety of ways, but it would be wonderful if we could start with prayer. We can ask God - in our own words, and with desire - for the grace to do this review with real honesty, and with a real desire to grow in freedom and integrity.
Who am I? What is my purpose?
Then, I might want to spend a few days reflecting upon - in the background all day long - who I am, and what my purpose is. Then, I might spend a few more days reflecting upon who I say Jesus is, and what this means for me. It doesn't make sense to start with a review of what I really value, if I haven't first examined if my values "fit" the truth of who I am and who I am called to be.
Naming my values
Then, I can name what is most important to me. A piece of paper would be very helpful, so that I can put it into words and keep "editing" or refining the words as I go along. I will try to be as explicit as possible. Instead of saying, "My kids." I might spell out the values that are important to me in my saying that my kids are a value, e.g., "It is extremely important to me that I be there for and with my kids when they are encountering key growth moments in their lives, in so many areas - homework time, for reflection time, in relationship struggles, in wins and losses, in relaxing and having fun." We want to "open up" our values, as we name them. What does it mean to say I value "my faith" or "my relationship with God" or "service to others"?
Spelling out the values in actions
Then, with each value, I will list what that value will mean in concrete behavior. For example, I may have written a value statement that is quite wonderful, "My relationship with my wife is the most important relationship of my life: I need her for my faith, and for my everyday strength; I want to be there for her, supporting her faith, affirming her, and caring for her in all her needs; I want to spend the rest of my life growing together in service of others." That would be an incredibly important set of things to say about what my wife means to me. The real work, the real "choosing" happens when I spell that out in real actions that will give life to that valuing. The true test of a value's importance to me is how it survives, in competition with other important values, in the contest for time in my everyday life. I can tell what I really value, by what I really do. When I feel like I'm not doing what I really value, then I need to realign my priorities.
Don't forget to be complete
One of the serious "mistakes" in trying to realign priorities is that I can easily overlook "operational priorities" that I might not be to aware of, or that I might not be to proud of. If I'm going to "re-arrange" what is important to me - moving some things higher up on the list and others things lower down - then I need a complete list. There probably are things in my life that I just do regularly - I read the paper every morning at 6 a.m.; we go out to dinner every Saturday night; I have "season tickets" to something. I need to name these. If "watching TV" is a big priority in my life (something I spend 4, 6, 10, 20 or more hours a week doing), or if I have to watch something every week, I should name it. If escaping into sexual fantasy is something I do quite regularly, I should name it. Smoking, drinking, surfing the net, collecting little ceramic things, fixing up the basement, are things that can become pretty engaging, are often time and resource consuming, and should be named.
Establishing new priorities
When all of my priorities are lined up like this, I am then ready to re-value them. We don't want to rush this part of the process. Perhaps we will want to discuss this review with some of the people who are intimately involved with the choices I will be making. And I will want to assess if I have the freedom and grace I need to make the decisions I want to make and to begin to establish new patters. That is precisely when it is important to turn to God with my fresh desires (trusting that they have been inspired by God's initiative already) and ask what I need.
The next step is to name what my "first priorities" are. This may sound ironic: how many "first" priorities can I have? In this sense, my first priorities are those that I will always do. In any competition for time, these choices will win out. That is what defines them as my priorities. My relationship with God, with my family, with my faith community, with my friends, with others in need, might be in this category. This is what I do not want to neglect any more.
Then, it is very important to name the second level of priorities. These are very important, and I don't want to neglect them either, but I want to make sure to distinguish them from my top priorities. I may, for example, have "my work" priorities here. They are very important to me, but I want to realign my priorities so that my first ones actually come first.
Then, I will clearly put a lot of other stuff in the third level of priorities. Now this process gets to be purifying. I may discover that I spend more money on smoking or recreation or knickknacks than I give in support of my faith community or the poor. I may realize that I spend more time watching TV than I do praying. I may find it difficult to surrender something I "always do" for something I now want to make sure I always do. Since this is where we may need the most grace, this is a very important time to turn to the Lord and ask for help and freedom. Dying to self, in order to be who I am called to be for and with others, is not easy at first. With practice, it can become a source of great joy and fulfillment. And, with God's grace, it will be part of my contribution to the Reign of God's coming closer and closer.
Building in a review time
Because this realignment will take practice, it will involve some back sliding
at times. In times of crisis or under pressure, we all regress back to behaviors
we were most comfortable with. Our new priorities can vanish. That is why it is
critical to keep reviewing how we are doing. During this Lenten time, we may
build in a daily examination of how we are doing. With time, we may want to
develop the practice of reviewing our day to day fidelity to our priorities
every Sunday morning, or some other time during the week. With each examination,
we need to give thanks to God, for the grace that has inspired and sustained
this life-giving realignment of our priorities.
Source: Creighton University - Praying Lent
Source: Creighton University - Praying Lent
Lent Is An Ideal Time for the Renewal of Our Marriages
Lent seems to be the ideal time to look at marriage. How does our Lent journey shape what we are called to do in marriage?
A few decades ago, the word "obey" was removed from wedding vows. Instead we promised to love, honor and cherish each other. Many years later, Jesuit philosopher John Kavanaugh, S.J. lamented how much we had lost by dropping the word "obey" from wedding vows. He said that the root of the word "obey" simply means to put the needs of another ahead of our own.
Obedience in this context has nothing about one dominating another - only two people pledging to put the needs of the other ahead of their own. What a wonderful idea. It seems that this is exactly what we are called to in a gospel-based marriage.
Called by Jesus to be Unselfish
Now during these weeks of Lent we can take some time to examine our marriage. Do we love as deeply as we had originally intended when we first made our vows? As unselfishly? Whether we've been married 3 years or 30, this sacred season could be the start of a renewed relationship with our spouse, shaped by our experience of Lent.
We are invited by Jesus to put the needs of another ahead of our own. We can deepen our commitments in marriage and even change the dynamics within our relationships through unconditional love. In loving this way, we transform not only our spouses but more importantly, ourselves.
For those of us who are parents, we have probably always put the needs of our children first – but our spouse? Yes, we care for each other, but do we put the other's needs ahead of our own? And yet how profoundly would our marriages change if we simply lived that vow for a while?
During Lent, we can make "obey-ing" the special focus of our lives. Instead of giving up chocolate, what if each day during Lent, we asked for the grace to be more unselfish in our marriage? As a first step, what if tomorrow, before we got out of bed, we asked God to help us love our spouse more? To put the needs of this life partner of ours ahead of our own?
Silencing our Disappointments
This Lenten journey begins with prayer and moves into silence. We hold off on the sarcastic comment aimed at our spouse. We silence a cutting remark. We drop the correction before it comes out of our mouths. Neglect the pouting. Stop the stony silence when we are displeased. These behaviors can be long standing and not easy to change. Also, it might take a while before our spouse really trusts these efforts. We will be the ones doing the "giving" for a while.
We are born selfish creatures crying out for someone to take care of our needs. The process of growing in this life seems to be learning how to become less selfish, less self-absorbed. On our good days we can do that, by loving, giving and caring for others before thinking of ourselves. But on our bad days, we look at our spouses and others and grumble about the unfairness: "Why is it always ME who has to do the giving? Why doesn't my spouse have to care about ME first? Am I always the one who has to apologize first? Ask about the other's day first? When is it MY turn to be taken care of?"
We are called to love in marriage the way we are loved by Jesus – without figuring out what we will get out of it. "Love one another as I have loved you." As I have loved you. In the same way Jesus loves us – without limits. And so we love our spouse who is crabby and barking. Instead of snapping a response we can ask ourselves, "What does my spouse need right now?" It's not about giving up my dignity or rolling over to a bully. It's about loving someone who might not be very loveable right now.
We can wallow in our own self-pity and self-absorption, but it is in that moment that we are being called more deeply into Jesus' love. We must die to our own needs and our own longing in order to find a new life in Jesus. In a profound way, we are being called to the simplest task: to care about other people before we take care of ourselves. What kind of people would we be if we got everything we wanted? If we never had to move outside of our own needs and desires? Jesus asks us: What good is it for us to get everything we wanted, if in the process we lose our very selves?
Cherishing Each Other
We've stopped snapping back, held our complaints. What if we add a small goal for ourselves every day? What if we added one positive, loving thing each day of Lent? We might hang up his clothes without complaining about it. Put the cap back on her toothpaste – with a smile. Lay out the crossword puzzle with a fresh pencil for him. Have a pot of coffee ready for her in the morning. Do some of the tiny, thoughtful things we might have done years ago, before we slipped out of the habit.
It's not spending money, it's a change of attention. Send him an e-mail of gratitude during the day. Tuck a note into her suitcase as she departs on a trip. A call just to say how grateful I am for you in my life. Each day we ask God for the grace to love as God loves us – without limits.
One final thing is patience. We have to learn to trust that eventually, with our constant loving and God's grace, our spouse will notice the difference. Under the barrage of love, our spouse will begin to soften, bark less, say Thank You more. It takes time to change the patterns and it takes time for our spouse to trust in the changes. It may take months beyond Lent, but if we believe in this, pray about it and trust in God, the changes that happen in our marriages and ourselves can be dramatic.
This isn't something for women to do for their husbands. Or husbands to do for their wives. It is what each of us as married people are called to do for each other. This is the way of life Jesus calls us to: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."
Re-focusing our marriage invites us to be more giving, to fight our human nature that has us focused on our own needs. We are asked to stop keeping score with the ones we love and to put their needs ahead of our own. It is then, Jesus promises, that by losing our lives for his sake, we will find real life.
Source: Creighton University - Praying Lent
by Greg Laurie
God is wiser than I am, and what is immediately good actually may not be eternally good. And what is eternally good isn't always immediately good, but painful.
Sometimes when God says no, we will say that God didn't answer our prayer. But what we really mean is that we didn't like the answer.
We say, "God, will You do this?" and God says no. So we conclude that God doesn't love us. But God said no because He does love us. He has a different purpose in mind.
We find an example of this in Acts 16, where Paul was concerned for the churches in Asia Minor and wanted to revisit them to check on their progress. There was one small problem, however. God had a different plan. Although Paul made every attempt to go to Asia, God basically said no: "After [Paul and Silas] had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them" (verse 7).
The Spirit did not permit them. I am intrigued by that statement, because I wonder how the Holy Spirit conveyed that truth to them. Was it simply a lack of peace? Have you ever been heading into a situation where everything looked good outwardly, but in your heart you had a sense of doubt as to whether it was good? Whatever it was, you didn't know if you really should be doing it.
And sometimes the way God says no is as simple as a door being closed. God has His timing. In the case of Paul and Silas, His timing wasn't right for them to go where they wanted to go. God wanted them to go to a different place. And the same can be true of you as well.
Copyright ©2013 by Harvest Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation,
reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you
accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible
readings etc. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the
reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the
4 of Great Lent
Daily Meditations and Bible Reading:
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