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The Departure of the Elves

February 26, 2012

         I have been reading the Lord of the Rings to my girls aver the past couple months. One of the things I found interesting, was a phrase from Galadriel, in which she describes the history of the elves as a long, slow defeat. Overcome slowly but surely by darkness and change. Whenever I read these statements and other passages where some great city of elves, dwarves or men once stood, but is now a place of desolation, it saddens me (as much as it is possible for fiction to sadden someone). Because the books never fully explain what had happened, I wondered how such a glorious society could be overcome by evil and wiped out. Tolkien’s longing for and lamenting of the passing of days gone by translates to the reader.

I started thinking about this  in the light of the beginning of Lent. Unlike the elves, who lived an endless string of sorrows, from which death and the sea were the only escape, pining for a past that will never come, we walking in an anticipation of the victory that already is and is yet to come. In the prayers of Cheesefare Week we are called to enter the fast eagerly, as an offering to the Lord. We make a great preparation by repentance, for the joyous Resurrection of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ. What a difference that is from a dismal life of defeat that we seek to escape, after no hope of victory is found. We resign ourselves to no “better place” in the hereafter, but we live in connection with that “hereafter” here and now.

The great thing about this season of repentance, is not just the glory that comes on the other end of a “dark” struggle, but the constant reminder by “defeat” that God’s mercy and grace is our victory, not ourselves. By that I mean this: whenever we fail in some point of the fast, or give in to sin in some way, we cast ourselves upon the mercy of God. And God, who is plenteous in mercy, gives it freely.

I entered last Lent with an excitement and anticipation. This year is no different, except that now I am an Orthodox Christian. The feeling is quite indescribable. I am entering Lent fresh out of the waters of baptism, having received the Body and Blood of Christ several times, as well as having the cleansing of the “second baptism” in the holy mystery of confession. It is not a feeling that says, “I can do this.” as though I had some sufficiency by virtue of rituals I have passed through. It is a feeling of peace, strength (His and His Church), cleanness of conscience, connection and belonging. I am sure that before too long, I will feel the full force of my sinfulness trying to pull me down. For now, I feel that eagerness we are all called to in the prayers of the Church.

May we all find grace this Lenten season as we struggle together, in preparation for His Holy Resurrection. Of all I ask forgiveness in anything which I have offended any one of you. A blessed Lent to all of you.

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