- Did I practice prayer, charity and fasting in a more responsible, regular, and consistent manner?
- Did I make a point of reading the Scriptures with the same care and consistency?
- Did I participate in the liturgical services with greater regularity?
- Did I watch over my language and gestures, or my words and actions, on an over-all basis with greater vigilance?
- Did I make a breakthrough in overcoming any specific “passions” or other manifestations of sinful living?
- Did I work on establishing any broken relationships?
- Did I simply give more of myself to Christ?
- Did I come to love Christ even more as I prostrated myself in faith before His life-giving Cross and tomb?
Then why not continue? Not to continue is to somehow fail to actualize in our lives the renewal and restoration of our human nature that definitively occurred through the Cross and Resurrection. Appropriating the fruits of Christ’s redemptive Death and life-giving Resurrection is essential for our self-designation as Christians.
In other words, can we carry the “spirit” of Lent (and some of its practices) with us outside of Lent? In this way, we are no longer “keeping Lent” but simply practicing our Faith with the vigilance it requires. We still must fast (on the appropriate days), pray and give alms. We still need to nourish ourselves with the Holy Scriptures. We must continue to wage “warfare against the passions” that are always threatening to engulf us. We need to deepen our love for Christ so that is surpasses any other commitment based on love in our lives. Or, have we doomed ourselves to being intense in the practice of our Faith for a short, predetermined length of time, and then pay “lip service” to, or offer token observance of, the Christian life until next year? In a rather unfortunate twist, Great Lent can work against us when we reduce it to such a limited purpose. Great Lent is the designated time of year meant to get us “back on track” so as to live more consciously Christian lives because certain circumstances and our weaknesses often work against us. It is the “example” rather than the “exception” if properly understood. In other areas of life, do we simply abandon good practices – in matters of health, let us say – because a designated period of testing or observing these good practices has come to an end?
Today may be a good day to reawaken to the glorious gift of life offered to us in the Church. One week from today—on Wednesday, April 30—we will return to our usual pattern of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, as the initial glow of Pascha slowly recedes. I would suggest that this may be one of the most difficult days of fasting in the entire year. It is very hard to reestablish a discipline temporarily suspended with the paschal celebration. Yet, in many ways, we are returning to “life as usual,” even in the Church, but that is a “way of life” directed by the wisdom of the Church toward our salvation and as a witness to the world. Let us take the “best of Lent” and continue with it throughout the days of our lives.
“Lent after Lent” means that there is “Life after Pascha.”