We escort Lent into existence by the chanting of the most ancient Vesperal Hymn which we have heard time and time again in the past...but it is different tonight:
O Gladsome Light of the holy glory of the Immortal Father, heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ.
The artificial lights in the Church dim to being just shy of off, and I become dramatically aware of the brightness of the hundred or so candles each of us has lit and planted around the central icons. The darkness feels right...we all stand on the precipice of Great Lent.
Now that we have come to the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening. We praise God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For it is right at all times to worship Thee with voices of praise...
The lampadas and candles on the altar and all around the church are darkened with purple sheaths, and the altar itself is now clothed in the darkness of its own lenten vestment.
O Son of God and Giver of Life, therefore all the world glorifies Thee.
As the clergy and altar servers appear from behind the Iconostasis, we see their previously gold attire is now also eclipsed by purple. The incense bells are gone and the censor swings in silence as the Temple is filled with smoke - a purple haze and Lent is now present. The tones of the hymns seem to change, a minor key? A mournful attitude? Maybe just all in my head? (Yes, all of these and more) The season has changed...the liturgical dance has changed its rhythm and we as individuals and as a community are enticed to follow along.
I feel moved by it all, despite the attention I required to give my squirmy and quickly growing tired children. I love this place, I love these people, I love this Orthodox Faith, and the Rite of Forgiveness is a more appropriate way to begin the Lenten Journey than I can possibly imagine. The Church in her collective wisdom points the way, and I lament that I had been outside of and so disconnected from this wisdom for so long.
What is the Rite of Forgiveness? Check out this excerpt from Khouria Frederica's book Facing East in which she beautifully describes the dance.
To all of you who read this blog: with my right hand I touch my forehead and then bring that hand to the ground - thus in a sense taking all that is in my self-centered head which so foolishly glories in who I am and lay it at your feet. It is worthless. I beg all of you for your forgiveness...certainly for sins I have committed directly against you (known and unknown) but also for the sins I commit each and every moment throughout my life which manifest death and darkness in the world. Please forgive me.
And now I no longer say: Lent is coming...but rather Pascha is coming!
O Gladsome Light, INDEED!
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 12:57 AM [+]