Monday, March 14, 2016

Late morning vespers

I dunno. I’m just thinking a lot about love today. When am I not thinking about it? or about Him?

So, it’s the first day of Lent, yes, ‘the Great and Holy.’ We’ve been eschewing (not chewing) meat these last seven or eight days, getting ready to take the plunge into meatlessness for forty plus days. We’ve had our last egg and piece of cheese yesterday, and then off in the late winter rain to forgive and be forgiven at vespers, waiting in line to see if any of our enemies showed up. That way, we could feel triumphant when kissing them and forgiving them verbally. Ah, as for our hearts? my heart? did I see anyone I hate there? No? well, that’s good. Maybe I’ve talked (or thought) myself out of hating anyone, since hating costs so much, and love is cheaper. In fact, it’s free.

But I didn’t do any of the above, except for plunging into meatlessness. And what a dive! Actually, it was less a dive and more like falling off a cliff overhanging the raging sea. It’s one thing to eat meat during a fast to avoid giving offense as someone’s guest, and quite another to bold-facedly prepare a meat dish when you know the fast has begun. Nothing works faster to call down God’s loving rebuke and our own guilt-laden conscience’s judgment than to do something you know is wrong, no matter how trivial. So I paid the price. No, it should’ve been death, but it was only a bad case of runs. Barbecue pork steam buns (made in China), never again! Especially, not on a fast day…

Love, thinking about love, it’s inescapable. That must be what makes Hell such a hot place. Can you imagine? you find yourself with the one Person you absolutely can’t stand in a room without a door, and They won’t leave you alone, but keep bothering you by telling you They love you, and then following it up by showing you just how much? No matter where you look or look away, there They are, like a non-stop movie unraveling Their acts of love, everything They ever did for you in your life, every blessing, every happiness, every joy, and you can’t even shut your eyes? Like the episode of The Twilight Zone, you’re a man who discovers he has no eyelids, and there’s no way to sleep.

Yes, inescapable. That’s what love is, or rather Who He is. But why try to run away? How long must it take, how old do we have to be, before we realize that run we must, and that the only road there is, is a one-way? Do we run with Him, toward Him, behind Him as He runs on ahead of us to show us where He’s going and where we’ll finally get to meet Him? Or do we turn tail and skidaddle in the opposite direction as fast as our feet can carry us, even though we know we’re heading the wrong way on a one-way street? It’s not our fault that we love, not Him, but ourselves, and prefer the liberty of Hell to the freedom of the Sons of God, you know, that crazy bunch of harpists ‘up there.’

Love has opened a way for us to return to Paradise. It’s through a gash in the side of a hung Man, yes, and it’s a bloody mess to go through that gate. But it was a bloody mess to go through it going the other way, out of Paradise and into a world where people like us get crucified every day, and even pay to have them do it to us. Love has showed up as a Man, as one of us. History tells the story. Go to church. You’ll hear it there too. You may not believe it, but if you had to believe, what better story could there be to put your faith in? The mob is waiting for you, for me too. Not the mob we’re used to, that we’re afraid of. No, it’s a different mob, and they’re all running this spring marathon.

First day of Lent, and here I am plunking away at this silly keyboard instead of out there on the greenway flying a kite. You know, if I had one, it would be a perfect day to fly it, right now in fact, as the on-again off-again sun shines down on my end-of-the-world street. In case I didn’t get a chance to ask you, my dear friends and enemies, to forgive me at last night’s vespers, I ask you now. Not for offenses against you personally. I may not know you well enough to have offended you. But for offenses of any kind that may have escaped this blind, battered manikin that calls himself a follower of Jesus and an Orthodox Christian, especially for not loving when I could, brethren, forgive.

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