Firstly, for my Lenten studies this year I decided to revisit some of the writings of the early Fathers. I have told you before how moving I find them. I was pointed by a friend to a Lent reading list on the Internet which gives a reading for each day, and I'm trying to follow this pattern.
On Shrove Tuesday, which for the Orthodox is actually the second day of Great Lent, it having started with the Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday, I came immediately on this little phrase from the letter to Diognetus (Chapter 6):
"To sum up all in one word: what the soul is to the body, that are Christians to the world."Isn't that a wonderful thought?
It reminds me of Jill Edward's excellent article in the February 2010 Binsey Beacon, where she calls on us to pray for our nation, to make intercession, to meet with God on behalf of the world.
Now the letter is generally dated about 130AD, so it is not completely impossible that the author was taught by one of the Apostles, most probably St Paul, as the language is generally Pauline.
So during Lent of all times, let us prepare ourselves to celebrate the Passion, and most particularly the Resurrection, of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, by doing what we were made to do. In this then we will be in His image.
Secondly, one of the customs of Forgiveness Sunday is to ask forgiveness of everyone, just in case something you have done as caused offence. So I ask your forgiveness, and say in all sincerity to you, that should you have cause me offence, I forgive you too. At Vespers we do this by each kneeling before the other, and saying 'Forgive me', then rising to kiss the other on the cheeks. Consider yourself prostrated to, and kissed.
And finally, during Lent the Orthodox add the Prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian to our daily office, it's worth sharing:
Lord and Master of my life, give me not a spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust for power and idle talk, but give me rather a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother or sister: for blessed art thou to the ages of ages. Amen.
Love in Christ, Richard.