Lent began yesterday.
I was out of town this weekend with my mother and sister. My mom and dear Aunt Susan sewed my wedding gown. Yes, in a weekend, they almost made an entire wedding gown. I was able to spend some great time with my dear cousin (and bridesmaid) Liz. I hadn't seen her in several months, it was a wonderful time.
We made it back to Memphis exactly ten minutes before Forgiveness Vespers began. I am so glad I was able to make it, it's one of my most favorite services. (Most especially because we sing a few songs from Pascha, even though the time of "bright sadness" begins, we're given a glimpse of what we're preparing for: Christ's Resurrection!)
Please forgive me a sinner.
The only problem was that I wasn't completely there for the service. Of course I asked forgiveness sincerely and forgave sincerely, but I didn't have the time to prepare myself for such a serious service. And for Great Lent in general.
I just wasn't ready. Blame it on the fact that Lent is really early this year, or blame it on planning a wedding, or blame it on me. (I'm going to say it has most to do with me and my own sin.)
I was so unprepared. Clean Monday is supposed to be one of the strictest days in all of Lent. Many people don't eat hardly anything during all of Clean Week. I am not able to fast that well. I usually try not to eat on Clean Monday, and then eat simply the rest of the week.
But, this year, I was unsuccessful. After sleeping for less than 4 hours on Sunday night I was too weak to fast properly and continue to work. I lasted until noon.
Every year it's hard to enter into The Great Fast. But, this year seems especially difficult. I was reminded that this time of the year is not meant to be easy. I think this year though, I'll need to work at it a bit harder.
I have made a few "Lenten resolutions," some things I'm going to limit during this time and some goals to achieve. I have set out to read Fr. Alexander Schmemann's book Great Lent again. (I've been unsuccessful in the past.)
Last night we prayed Compline with the Cannon of St. Andrew. If you aren't ready for Lent when you enter that service, you certainly are when you leave. It's emotionally draining and physically difficult. There are several prostrations and metanias along with the acknowledgement that we have sinned. But, by the time I left, I was more aware of the purpose of the fast.
We have services every night this week. It's an exhausting week, but I'm finally happy to enter into it.
I received an e-mail yesterday that began with the salutation "Fruitful Lent." I'm sure I've heard it before, but it made sense to me this time. Many Orthodox Christians will say "Happy Lent" or "Good Lent" to one another. Although the sentiment is the same for each greeting, I think I prefer the words of my friend. It caused me to realize that I shouldn't pray for an easy Lent, but rather for a fruitful one full of repentance and preparation for Christ's Holy Resurrection.