When I was younger, I spent my summers hanging out at the swimming pool like so many of my friends. I became friends with the lifeguards, and eventually became a member of the pool staff. As a staff member I was privileged to watch swim practice. I can still hear the coach calling out instructions to the swimmers. Ready……On Your Mark….GO!
That's how I feel today as we begin our annual Triodion Journey. Today we begin a special season the Church calls the “Triodion” and it is a journey to Great Lent. You can think of the Triodion as ‘practice’ for Great Lent. Just like the members of the swim team were asked to take their mark, before jumping in the water, we are asked by the Church to take our mark before we jump into Great Lent. We have to know where we are before we can go anywhere new.
Our first stop along the journey today is the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, through which the Church calls us to humble prayer. “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18.13) In this Parable our Lord compares two well known realities of people. One humble; the other not. One knew, and followed all the religious rules; the other did not. One saved; the other not. Through this comparison the Tridion prepares us for Great Lent by asking us to look inside our heart with tough questions.
- Do we think we are better than others?
- Do we think our sins are less important than others?
- Do we think lives are better examples of holiness than others?
- Do we think our sins separate us from God?
- Do we think our sins have control over our future?
- Do we think our sins need to be forgiven by God?
How you answer these questions will affect the way you spend the next several weeks between now and Pascha. If a swimmer is not ‘on their mark’ they can’t jump into the water. If you answer by comparing yourself to how others are so much worse and act so much worse than you, then you are not on your mark and you can’t jump into Great Lent. If you can’t jump in, then you have already lost the chance to grow closer to God during this year’s journey.
If on the other hand you realize that your life isn’t as close to God as you originally thought, or that you wouldn’t dare to even look up to heaven for fear He may see into your heart, then lucky for you, this year’s journey will be just in time. CONGRATULATIONS…..GO! You have already learned the lesson of true Christian humility. If you are willing to accept that you are a sinner that needs to repent (change your way of viewing the world) then you have already won the battle to invite God to life in your heart.
Now get ready! On Your Mark……GO!