Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Spiritual Hibernation

"My soul, my soul, arise! Why are you sleeping? The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded. Awake, then and be watchful, that Christ our God may spare you, Who is everywhere present and fills all things." Kontakion from the Great Penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

St. Andrew, who really should be the Patron Saint of people who talk to themselves (like me), gives us these words with which to wake ourselves up the first week of Great Lent, and then again toward the end of Lent. These words have been in my mind for several days now. I seem to be in a spiritual stupor for the last few weeks, and I only wake up from this for small moments in time, and then my soul goes back to its slumber.

So why is my soul sleeping? It seems I am always fighting this battle this time of year. The days get shorter, it gets cold, and I usually have more work than I have time for. And in the midst of this, the Church prescribes a fast for the Nativity of Christ. Great Lent is so much easier for me than the Nativity Fast for a number of reasons. The first is that Thanksgiving is during the Nativity Fast. My birthday is also during the Nativity fast. I usually end up breaking the fast at least a couple times just because of celebrations. The other problem is that there are not nearly as many Church services during the Nativity Fast as there are during Great Lent. The first week of Lent, there is a service every night. This time of year, I feel cold, and tired, and it feels like I am being asked to practice asceticism without a safety net. So I plod along through the Fast in the hopes that it will pass by quickly and I can get on to other things.

I often wish that I could just hibernate through the winter and wake up when the weather gets warm again and the sun comes out. I figure if my soul is gonna take a nap, my body might as well get a nice long sleep as well. But since that is not plausible, I need to pray for my soul to awaken. I need to struggle to make this a period of preparation, because the end is near at hand for all of us, and I should not be wasting my time in sleep anyway.


Emily H. said...

"Is this bed to be my coffin or wilt Thou enlighten my wretched soul with another day" - We should be constantly calling our soul to awaken, and what a hard task that is!

I don't understand your comment about practicing asceticism without a safety net. Is the Church not a safety net, or perhaps I miss your meaning entirely. Forgive this poor Lutheran.

Anyways, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday too. (You'll have to change your profile that says you're 31. -- I live in Iowa where the majority of people around us could be our grand or great-grandparents and there's certainly no one in my age range other than my husband. We're both 30. You don't know how refreshing it to see that people my age still do exist in this world! Enough of my raving...)

Love in Christ!

Matthew Garrett said...

What I meant about asceticism without a safety net is that during times of fasting, it really helps me to have more church services, especially Liturgy. Just on a purely practical level, it makes sure that fasting is accompanied by more prayer, but it also is spiritual nourishment to take the place of lessened physical nourishment. It is inevitable that any time we practice asceticism, that we will fall down and have to pick ourselves up. The Church appoints services during Lent that help to cushion that fall, but for some reason (at least at my church) the Nativity Fast does not have extra services.

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving as well. I don't see a lot of young people in my area either, particularly not religious ones. It seems that with people my age there is very little to talk about that has meaning, and a lot of talk about nothing. So thank you for your comments and questions, it's a delight to have a discussion about things that matter.

DebD said...

I know exactly what you are talking about! I pretty new to Orthodoxy, but I find that the Nativity Fast is much harder to plod through than Great Lent. (We also have a b-day during the fast). Thanks for this encouragement.

ps. I found you through Emily's blog.