“Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:34-35). Great Lent is a season of waiting and watching daily at the gates of the Lord. We’re invited to take time to pause and listen for the voice of the Spirit. Our ears should be opened and attuned to what the wind of God is stirring up in our lives. We should pray with fervent hearts for our minds to be open to the Gospel message and how it pertains to our journey on the path.
Like all things, the paths and gates of our journey can be both literal and figurative, both physical and spiritual. There are roads of the earth and roads of the spirit. We should be traveling the physical paths that lead up to the gates of the Church – and entering the church, listen attentively to the Scriptures and the hymns. And yet, no matter where we are physically, we always have the opportunity to wait and watch with the mind in the heart before the spiritual gates of the Lord.
In order to listen and make space for Christ, the church in her wisdom encourages us to give up the superfluous things in our lives that may distract us, weigh us down and consume our attention. During Tuesday Matins on the third week, we hear in the sessional hymn: “Let us cleanse ourselves through fasting and prayer; let us serve God through acts of Mercy to the poor!” Prayer, joined with fasting and almsgiving, are three ways we can turn our focus toward the voice of God.
How does God speak to us through the words of the hymns and prayers that we hear at Church and pray at home? What are the conversations we find ourselves having with God? What are our joys, concerns, petitions, and intercessions – and what do we hear God say in return through the voice of the prophets, confessors, ascetics, and our spiritual mothers and fathers?
How does God speak to us through fasting? How are we able to hear differently when we put aside social media, entertainment, and other non-essentials? What does fasting say to us aboutsimplicity and silence during the Lenten spring? What are our true needs?
How does God speak to us through the giving of alms to those in need? What is Christ saying to us about letting go and laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters? If we identify with Christ as our Lord and Savior, how can we imitate His love and compassion? St. Alexis, the Man of God, fled the opulence of the world and spent his life waiting and listening at the physical gates of a church. He prayed, he fasted, and he gave half of the alms he received to others who were in need. St. Patrick heard the voice of God telling him to go out and spread the good news to the Irish people. He rose up every day with the name of Christ in his heart and went forth with the wisdom, strength and courage of God.
May we imitate these holy men by listening attentively for the word of God this Lent. And may we take His message to heart as we continue our journey.
Used with permission, from the weekly digest of Cleanse Me By Repentance, a Lenten devotional collection prepared by St. Tikhon’s Seminary, authored by its faculty, students, and alumni.
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