Saturday, February 19, 2011

And so it begins

The marathon of Lent has once again arrived.  One week ago today, the book was laid at the feet of Christ, a signal to all that training now starts in earnest.  We enter the season of preparation, the Triodion has begun!  I am excited, eager with anticipation.  Yes, it is a long hard run, and often does not turn out the way we expect, but it is a journey each year for which my heart and soul seek out.  Last year, I am sure I complained about the the short time between the Nativity and Lent, how quickly we passed from feasting to fasting.  I wanted a longer break, to stretch the time between.  This year, the time has been longer, much longer, and I strain toward the beginning.  While the season between is full of glorious feasts, Theophany, the Presentation of Christ, and the many saints we commemorate, it is also a time when I always feel the need for new focus.  It is the time when I easily begin to feel overwhelmed, and lacking a structure to my life.  In a few short weeks, we will gradually move from our long season of feasting into the long season of fasting.  Deep purple will cloak the altar and priests, and the incense will grow heavy.  We will being the journey, and we will once again watch the signposts along the way, marking each mile.  Over and over again we will lay ourselves at the feet of Christ.  We will attempt to follow the exercises prescribed by the church, in hopes of building our endurance, and we will run the race.  What are those exercises?  How do we shape and mold ourselves that we may more reflect the perfect image, the image of Christ in us?  The Church outlines three tangible things we are called to, the "three-legged stool" of Orthodox living: prayer, fasting and almsPrayer is obvious, and hard to avoid in the Lenten service schedule.  Fasting, is always a struggle, but at least I have a plan and a direction to follow, it is something I can get a grasp on.   Then there is almsgiving. Here so often is where my strength fails.  How to give alms?  Each year we receive a little box at the start of Lent.  A place to drop our change, a place to collect the money we save as we restrict the call of the belly.  While it important for each of us to stretch the dollars, to give of our material wealth, it does not express the  fullness of almsgiving
Almsgiving is "love for others expressed in practical form, by works of compassion and forgiveness.... the criterion in the coming judgement will not be the strictness of our fasting but the amount of help that we have given to those in need .....  The mere giving of money can often be a substitute and an evasion, a way of protecting ourselves from closer personal involvement with those in distress.  'When thou seest the naked, cover him; and hide not thyself from thine own flesh" (Bp. KALLISTOS Ware, introductory notes to the Lenten Triodion)
How, how do we make sure we don't protect ourselves, hide our hearts and eyes, shelter our children from the hurt around us?  How do we clothe the naked, feed the poor, care for the sick?  Over the years I have seen some beautiful examples of those who have fulfilled this call.  This year, I look for ways our home can indeed give alms.  Most of us cannot pick up and travel to some distant land to care for the neediest.  So how do we serve within our daily lives?  As I have slowly worked my way through our home, attempting to declutter the mess, remove the unnecessary, embrace less and bless others with our excess, many times I have found myself staring into the fabric closet.  The curse of a seamstress, the call of fabric. 
How hard it is to just NOT BUY.  How hard it is to walk away from the newest print.  Bins full to overflowing, piles of laundered pillowcases sit in my fabric closet.  Brightly colored stripes, dainty hand crocheted borders, soft sweet florals, all waiting for some future project; and as I try to decide the balance between what to keep and what to remove, a blessing is sent my way.  This link arrives in my inbox. A home for those beautiful orphaned pillowcases.  Each one is unique, each has its own beauty, and each can bless.  Now I have a plan.

Our goal is one dress a week beginning Meatfare Sunday. The little princess is going to learn to sew, and together we will indeed clothe the poor, and remind ourselves each day of the blessing of a full closet, 3 cooked meals every day, shoes on our feet, wooden floors beneath us and a sturdy metal roof over our heads.  We will lay our time and efforts at the feet of Christ and say thank you.  It is a small gift.  It is a poor offering, but it is a start.
Want to share your ideas for almsgiving? Please leave me a note letting me know what ideas you have.   I would love to hear other ways you may be planning to give of your time and abilities to help others this Lent.  And if you choose to join us in sewing dresses, please leave a link so we can see!

4 comments:

Andrea said...

Donating blood .Truly a priceless gift.

flowersfortheteacher said...

This year for my oldest, 12, I'm customizing a Lenten Reflections book that will include daily reading's, a charitable act, an excerpt from Psalms, and a section to log the journey. The good deeds were in inspired by Anne Voskamp's Jesse Tree Journey and the journal section is for personal reflections through Lent. In the final days, that will include Lenten Cleaning (bedroom), and ideas from http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2010/03/holy-week-for-kids.html
there will also be rereading the journal entries. I picked up a daily devotions book for my younger ones and will begin it with them when Lent begins.

flowersfortheteacher said...

I believe it was Mat. Emily, Charming the birds..., who donated a can good a day last year during lent with her little ones. I think that's also a wonderful idea and for younger children.

anna said...

Andrea - what a wonderful idea!

flowersfortheteacher - I do hope you will share your wonderful plan!