Imagine for a moment waking up on a work day. You’re tired, the weather is unbearable, the drive ahead is long, and your family would rather have you with them at home. Yet you know work is important: it’s a means to paying the bills, to sustaining your life. Sometimes, you even like being there. There is little choice but to get up, and to go.
Now imagine that attending Church is your job. It only demands a few hours each week. The actual output is usually far less demanding than most paid employment. You can always note some perceivable benefit by the end of a trip to Church. The invisible benefits – such as spiritually strengthening you for the week, preparing you for a better life of prayer, and offering encouragement you need while living among those who don’t share your faith – these are more plentiful than one can measure.
But sitting at home, or lying in bed, the temptation to simply skip holy services seems to have a much stronger pull on us than the temptation to skip work.
We might be busy, have a lot of work to do, or have other plans, but how often do we call in to work to say we simply aren’t going to show up on a given day? Many times, the bottom line is that the draw of the world – the things our work can buy us – is a much stronger love in us than our love for the services of Christ’s Church.
As we begin Great Lent, it is helpful to call to mind the story of the man who objected to his priest that the lives of the saints – all-night vigils, perpetual fasting, and sleeping for only a few hours each day – these are impossible for most of us. His priest responded in a matter-of-fact way, saying, “Okay, can you simply try to come to Church on time?” For most of us, coming to Church preparing for the Divine Liturgy with Vespers and Confession the night before, and partaking of Holy Communion each week is a spiritually challenging task. Before we make big plans for reaching spiritual heights during the season of Lent, let us remember this fact. Let us begin by looking at the Church calendar, and simply attending the services, which are given to us to reshape our lives and hearts from the inside out. Lent is the time to begin.