the gates of innocence
This is a gate of the road leading to the pasture of our small family farm…
As we approach the time of the Orthodox Christian beautiful fast, which is more to say the beautiful emphasis on repentance (rekindling the Greatest Commandment in our hearts) the Church blesses and fortifies us with the hymn
“Open to me, O Giver of Life, the gates of repentance:
for early in the morning my spirit seeks Your holy temple…”
(Troparion of Matins, Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee).
Some time ago a monastic told me that “repentance is a gift” and that it is also our task. Struggle. A blogging priest wrote that repentance is turning to God in the acceptance who I am (warts and all). Stark reality. A friend monk recently explained repentance as a return to childhood innocence yet with all the knowledge and experience of a life lived. Humility. Struggle. Rekindling.
My admiration for monastics is deep because their repentance is lived every second of every day which is why the faithful also seek out their counsel.
Over the years and tears, a meditation of the gates of repentance, that might one day open for me, has formed.
That meditation is of our migration, as the body of Christ, being led by our Mother the Church into the fields of Great Lent. Each year I envision it as a pasture – like the one above – and that Lenten pasture nourishment being the hymns of the Church services; our public prayers corporate and deepest most intimate devotions private; the reading of Scriptures; the Mysteries of the Church and the giving of alms. These ways bear the language and embodiment of repentance. They remind us that everything—the beating of our hearts, the breath of our lungs, each morsel of food, every failure – like the pig pen of the Prodigal, and every success—is pure gift. Great Lent is about love, because it is Divine Love that brought us into being.
The pastures of Great Lent nourish us on the language of salvation, encouraging and nourishing the very depth of our being – that our life is not our own and “that it is not the production of crops that feeds man, but Your word that maintains those who believe in You” (Wisdom of Solomon 16:26)
May God bless us to feel the Lent.
“Open to me the doors of repentance for early in the morning my spirit seeks Your holy temple…”