Lent: Time to Shake Off Life’s Irritations

Just yesterday we Orthodox were called by Christ to forgive one another as part of Forgiveness Sunday and our preparation for entering into Great Lent .   Lent is a season of repentance.   Forgiveness is the basis for repentance in the Christian experience, according to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Forgiving others doesn’t mean that we will never be annoyed by them or that we will always be free of anger or irritation.  And it doesn’t mean that we have to like everyone or accept the behavior of everyone else.   Forgiveness though is part of an inner peace that we strive to attain as disciples of Christ.  On this, the first day of Great Lent, we can think about some advice from St. John Chrysostom on how to deal with life’s irritations.

“So I beseech you: with a view to being able to bear without difficultly the effort which virtue involves, let us give evidence of great love of God, and by devoting our attention in that direction let us not be deflected by any of this life’s concerns in our course towards that goal. Instead, let us keep in mind the constant enjoyment of future blessing and thus bear without distress the hardships of the present life:

let insult not disturb us,

nor poverty oppress us,

nor bodily ailment sap the energy of our soul’s purpose,

nor scorn and derision on the part of the majority render us listless in practicing virtue.

Let us rather shake off all these irritations like dust, adopt a noble and elevated attitude, and thus take a stance of great fortitude to all problems. As we recommended to your good selves yesterday, let us with all zeal be reconciled with our enemies and dispel the remaining passions from our soul:

should untimely desire beset us,

let us ward it off;

should choler (i.e., irascibility) arouse our anger,

let us suppress its upsurge with the singing of spiritual exhortations and thus show in its true light the ruin that passion brings.

‘A man of quick temper,’ Scripture says, remember, ‘is not honorable;’ and again, ‘The person who is angry with his brother without cause shall be liable to the hell of fire.’ Should desire for money unbalance our thinking, let us be quick to shun this noxious ailment and expel it for what it is – the root of all evils. Let us be zealous in correcting each of the passions that beset us, so that by avoiding harmful ways and practicing those that are good we may on that dread day be judged worthy of God’s loving kindness, thanks to the grace and mercy of his only-begotten Son, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, power and honor, now and forever, for ages of ages. Amen.”   (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, pp 196-197)

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