In the midst of Great Lent, we sometimes long for its end. Yet with the coming of Pascha, it is often our experience that spiritual life is actually more difficult outside the fast, with more burdens, temptations, and afflictions.
How can this be?
Firstly, the purpose of Great Lent is the re-orientation of our lives, away from carnal things, and towards God. It is hoped that the increased habit of prayer during Lent, together with the release from attachments to certain foods and entertainment, will actually change our lives and habits, not just during Lent, but throughout the year.
Secondly, less prayer to Christ means more work for us. During times of intense prayer, like Lent and Holy Week in particular, we depend more and more on God. Often, as we end this intense dependence, we tend to rely more and more on ourselves – and we fail. Of course, the answer for us is more prayer, throughout the year.
Thirdly, the carnal world may be familiar to us, but it is not ‘natural’ to us in any way. It is easy to become deluded into believing that chocolate cake, or movies, or extravagant social activities will bring us lasting joy; in fact, they almost always bring more responsibilities, and the burden of trying to keep the fleeting pleasures we have worked so hard to attain.
In the post-Lenten season, we are blessed if our lives have been changed, and can return to that place we have left behind at the Fall: Paradise, and communion with Christ. The very same tools which bring us there during Lent – Holy Communion, Confession, fasting, daily prayers, and especially humility and mercy – can also bring us back to Christ throughout the time outside the Fasts.
Let us keep our eyes on the path that will achieve this path of lasting joy, and never settle for the things that do not satisfy.