Our eager anticipation of Easter is growing day by day, as Lent nears its end.
Yet, for our fellow Christians of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, today is just the beginning of “Great Lent,” a time of preparation for “Pascha” (Easter).
Our calendars for this season are different because we calculate the date of Easter differently.
There are other differences. Both have 40 days, but the Eastern Church includes Sundays and we omit them. The Orthodox do not observe Ash Wednesday. Great Lent begins on “Clean Monday.” This year, that is today, seven weeks before Pascha.
The goal of Great Lent is to become more like Christ in prayer and action.
Determining the date of Easter is one of several issues that led to the Great Schism of 1054, when the Western Church, focused on the Pope in Rome, and the Eastern Church, focused on the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, formally separated.
The Great Schism may be the most significant division of the Christian Church, but not the only one. With its roots in the Church of England, the Episcopal Church is the product of schism, which has itself endured multiple separations, some recently.
I believe this schismatic history grieves the Spirit of Christ.
I am fond of the New Testament metaphor “Body of Christ” to describe the church, comparing it to the human body in which various parts have different functions but work together as a unified whole.
“But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
That not only states the common purpose of Lent and Great Lent, but also compels us to seek unity and overcome division within the Body of Christ. Amen.
Theodore William Johnson
Appointed readings for today: 2 Kings 4:18-21, 32-37, Psalm 17:1-8, John 11:18-44