The choir sang the first minor-keyed "Lord have mercy."
The priest's vestments changed to purple.
The prostrations began.
Experiencing these ancient traditions, I tangibly felt myself take a spiritual step into the journey of Great Lent.
Here are the thoughts I'm taking with me, thoughts that God has been gently and graciously revealing to me over the past few weeks, starting with this troparion, and last week with these words from Saints Barsenuphias and John.
And there is the Prayer of the Optima Elders, which includes these lines:
Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will.
When things unforeseen occur , let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee
In the book I have been reading, Lynette's Hope, this theme has marched steadily through the pages:
God gives us what is profitable for our souls.
This book is a compilation of Albanian missionary mom Lynette Hoppe's newsletters, journals, and web posts as she struggles with stage 4 cancer. She writes:
One of the gifts God has given me recently is a spirit of deep contentment. I am contented with the cross I have been given, because I know that it is rooted in the goodness of God. Because God is good, all that He sends us is for our good.
Although she (and hundreds of others who loved her!) prayed for a miracle, Lynette also accepted the will of God:
I do not believe something bad has happened to me. I see this cancer as a manifestation of my Lord's desire to draw me nearer to himself. He wants all of me and not just a half-distracted nod in his direction now and then. I am honored to be entrusted with such a gift. I just hope I am worthy of it... My prayer is not for healing, but for the grace to walk with courage and joy through whatever I may encounter. I don't want to become ill-tempered and whiny. I want to shine through this and gain that for which it is intended: a deeper love for God and a closer walk with Him
As for me, I doubt my ability to have such faith in that circumstance, but here's what I am left with: If Lynette Hoppe can count cancer as "an eventuality that cometh down from Thee", if she can trust God in that extreme circumstance that the pain can have a purpose of drawing her nearer to God, then I can accept my lesser struggles and pain as an opportunity to grow closer to God. I can seek Him and His peace and joy in the present moment instead of worrying about our future.
Just this past week, we received a newsletter from our beloved Saints Mary and Martha Monastery, which encouraged me with these words:
The voice of the Lord is in each of our moments. He is ever present in the current activity whatever it may be: keeping a home, caring for self and others, worshipping, the job, or resting. Every relationship allows us to encounter our good God; therefore, if we look to Him instead of worrying about what if..., His peace will abide.
One last source of encouragement has wrapped it's arm around me. In the prayers at the end of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, lips sigh, "Oh Lord, give them that which is profitable for their salvation."
Again and again and again.
God gives us what is profitable for us.
I beg Him to help me trust in His great Love. I am thankful for this season of Lent, for the chance to offer myself to be molded by Him, to be drawn closer to Him. I don't want to ruin it with my lack of faith and acceptance. I beg God to help me surrender my pain and impatience to be transformed by His Love.