This revised edition of Father Alexander Schmemann’s Lenten classic examines the meaning of Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian, the Canon of St Andrew of Crete and other neglected or misunderstood treasures of Lenten worship. Schmemann draws on the Church's sacramental and liturgical tradition to suggest the meaning of “Lent in our life.”
The Lenten season is meant to kindle a “bright sadness” within our hearts. Its aim is precisely the remembrance of Christ, a longing for a relationship with God that has been lost. Lent offers the time and place for recovery of this relationship. The darkness of Lent allows the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn within our hearts until we are led to the brilliance of the Resurrection.
“We understand then why the services had to be long and seemingly monotonous. We understand that it is simply impossible to pass from our normal state of mind made up almost entirely of fuss, rush, and care, into this new one without first ‘quieting down,’ without restoring in ourselves a measure of inner stability. This is why those who think of church services only in terms of ‘obligations,’ who always inquire about the required minimum (‘How often must we go to church?’ ‘How often must we pray?’) can never understand the true nature of worship which is to take us into a different world—that of God’s Presence!—but to take us there slowly because our fallen nature has lost the ability to accede there naturally.” (Page 33)
“But it is our whole faith that by His own death Christ changed the very nature of death, made it a passage—a ‘passover,’ a ‘Pascha’—into the Kingdom of God, transforming the tragedy of tragedies into the ultimate victory. ‘Trampling down death by death,’ He made us partakers of His Resurrection. This is why at the end of the Paschal Matins we say: ‘Christ is risen and life reigneth! Christ is risen and not one dead remains in the grave!’” (Page 12)
“Sin is always absence of love, and therefore separation, isolation, war of all against all. The new life given by Christ and conveyed to us by the Church is, first of all, a life of reconciliation, of ‘gathering into oneness of those who were dispersed,’ the restoration of love broken by sin.” (Pages 23–24)
“Therefore Easter is our return every year to our own Baptism, whereas Lent is our preparation for that return—the slow and sustained effort to perform, at the end, our own ‘passage’ or ‘pascha’ into the new life in Christ.” (Page 14)
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