During this Great Lent I was faced with new struggles; yet, at the same time, I was given new ways to take on the pains. Living in Romania, I would like to share with you more of my Great Lent and Pascha experiences.
I had a tremendous spiritual blessing in that a monk who I became acquainted with shared with me some spiritual advice when I needed it the most. He suggested I ask myself reflection questions during my day to day life. From this suggestion I received a lot of encouragement to try the best I can during Great Lent. To provide me with spiritual reading, he also surprised me by having borrowed books written in English to share with me. I found it very beneficial to do some spiritual reading each night. I could feel how much he cares about the work of the soul and his gift warmed my heart.
I also want to share with you the importance and frequency of the Healing Service, called Maslu, in the liturgical life of the Romania Orthodox Church. In the US, I was not used to the healing service. In America, Holy Unction was something I participated in only once or twice during the year. However, here, there is a maslu service once a week in almost every parish that I know of in Cluj. I personally had to warm up to this service because the priest reads seven Gospels and then all the prayers that follow after each of the Gospels. On top of that, at first I could not fully participate in the service because of my minimal understanding of the language. Now, however, through the grace of God, my language skills have been enhanced and I can understand most of the Gospels.
As my ability with the language continues to develop I have become able to participate more and more in the healing service with my heart, mind, and soul. The significance of the healing service for me is unity and a sense of community with the faithful that come to participate. During the week, if I was sad and suffering from many things, participating in this service helped me to know that I was not alone. Others were also suffering. They wanted to receive healing, and so did I. Each of us, petitioning God for healing, came together with all our problems, pains, and struggles, and we gave them to Christ. The Gospels that the priest reads out loud as the faithful gather around him to make contact with his vestments are words of life. They are regenerated strength for our needs and struggles.
Another conflict for me was how to balance my prayer life with my work life. For me, attending services during Great Lent is very important. However, even while I was able to participate in the maslu service, I found my work schedule often prohibited me from attending many of the services during the week. So, I remembered, as the Fathers of the Church have said, we can pray while we do our work. This spiritual advice was what I tried to put into practice in order to bring balance to my life. It was not an easy thing and I did not do a good job. But, I did what I was capable of with my prayer life at home and also while doing my ministry work; and God took over when I could not sustain.
Another experience that I found to be a significant help during Great Lent was the sharing of Lenten food and recipes amongst my friends. Most of my friends, at one point or another, talked to me about Lenten recipes. They told me how tasty their food was and how healthy it was for their bodies. God also provided these friends for me because they feed me on their leftovers! In God’s providence, most of the time someone came and gave me food when I didn’t have any food prepared for myself. I was blessed by their openness, encouragement, and love which carried me through, one day to the next, as we all were preparing together to meet the Resurrected Christ.
As Pascha approached, I learned that Romanians start to clean up their apartments. But, not only do they clean, they also begin to prepare food for Pascha. They do all of this labor while continuing to work at their jobs. For me it became very busy very quickly. I panicked because I did not expect the chaos of getting the material things ready for Pascha while at the same time my ministry work also increased. All of this chaos paralyzed me from making good decisions on how to balance my time. As a result, it seemed to me I was walking through water with a heavy dense fog during Holy Week. My life line to get me through the week was that I knew that Christ will be victorious over death and His light will shine on all.
I began preparing for my trip to the Twelve Apostles Skete where I would celebrate Pascha. My material preparation was finished and I had to accept that I had done the best that I could under the circumstances. Now, I began waiting for the Light of Christ to shine so that His Light would evaporate the fog. As soon as I entered my car and started driving, I could feel all of the chaos decreasing within me and the anticipation of Christ’s Resurrection increasing.
The thing that impressed me the most at the Paschal Liturgy was receiving the Light of Christ from the priest monk. Everybody had candles in their hands waiting for the single flame that changes the darkness into light. We all receive from this single flame the same exact flame with our candles, signifying the Light of Christ. His Light encompassed us so that with His Divine Light destroyed our darkness. In the Pascha baskets of the faithful, people had brought lanterns to carry the flame home. They were taking the light home so that it would be the first light to enter in their houses. I was grateful that my soul and body participated in the Paschal Liturgy to receive strength and healing to walk with the Resurrected Christ in my day to day life.
Christ is Risen!
Indeed He is Risen!
Hristos a inviat!
Adevarat a inviat!