It was Vespers. The familiar rhythm of nightly prayer, yet in a moment, it became very different. Slowly, the reader began to chant, “Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this night without sin…”. Slowly, ever so slowly, to give time for the action taking place. Pairs of girls lifted the icons from the stands lining the front of the church, removed the gold cloths underneath, and replaced them with new cloths in a deep, rich shade of purple. A shuffling and swishing from behind the altar hinted of the rapid change of a passel of awkward altar boys from gold robes to purple ones. The deacon and the priest changed their vestments from gold to purple. Even the lampadas on the iconstasis lost their golden glass and instead began to shine on the faces of the icons in a twinkling reflection of purple. The choir began to sing, but this time, it was to the mournful Lenten melody. Purple in music. It was just another Vespers a few minutes ago, but then the mood visibly shifted. We’ve experienced a great transition from one time to the next. From one rhythm to another. We’ve entered the rhythm of Lent.
The Church is so gentle in her instruction. Orthodoxy might appear to be just about a lot of external “stuff”, but that stuff is the stuff of Heaven. The change in the colors, the melodies, the prayers, the prostrations, and all of the many differences in the services to come aren’t about altering the worship experience to keep things fresh or interesting. They aren’t to make life fancier or more difficult. They’re about a reminder that it’s time for change…the change in me. Is today really different than yesterday, because today starts Great Lent? Was my sin acceptable yesterday? Were my excuses to neglect prayer, or be grouchy with my husband, or be inconsiderate of the limitations of my children o.k. yesterday? Apparently I thought they were, for I did all those things.
I shouldn’t need Lent to be able to repent. Every day, every breath is a part of the greatest fast there is; a lifetime of reaching for the God who is my God. I should repent everyday, but…I don’t. So, the Church gives me this precious gift of Lent, wrapped in sleek, purple paper. A whack upside the head and a knocking to my knees. It’s time to repent! It’s been time, but you haven’t been listening, so let’s try this a different way!
I begin Great Lent with a confession to God that I did treat yesterday differently. I did make excuses that I was too busy, or too tired, or too overworked, or too weak. I did think that maybe later I’d have time or make time. I did choose to pull away, but God never budged. I’m the one who moved, and it’s time for me to be the one to move back. To live today like every day should be. The day of repentance. The day of resurrection starts now.
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During the first week of Lent, we sing the service of the The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. A group of prayers of repentance, this canon is a wake-up call to the soul. Over and over during the canon, we prostrate ourselves on the ground, body and soul before God. Over and over, we sing the refrain, “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.” This morning, Hilary and I made a reminder of this service for our Lenten corner.
I started with a piece of thick craft foam 6″ by 9″. I laid it on top of a piece of fabric cut a bit larger on each side. Then, I wrapped it up like a present, hot gluing the edges and cutting off the excess as I went, so it would lay flat. I cut a piece of felt slightly smaller than the base and glued it to the back, covering up all the ragged fabric edges.
Next, I printed the text I wanted on our handwriting white board and had my seven year old, Hilary , copy the words onto purple paper. I glued the paper to the front of the fabric covered base and glued down ribbon along the edges.
I enjoy making crafts with kids. I especially like when the craft can mix grown-up and kid appeal. This craft is one of those. It has lots of Hilary touches. She directed the color choices and embellishments. She helped glue, arrange, and write. But, it’s got me in it, too. And of course, it has purple.
Here’s our project in our Lenten corner. The project notes for the Doors of Repentance table runner can be found here.
Later this week…Annunciation Learning Box Study Guide and Sundays of Lent quilt.