“My son, do what I command thee, and save thyself” (Prov. 6:3). This command, this plea, sounds like the desperate cry of a desperate time. “Save thyself” has echoed throughout the ages from the time of the Patriarchs and Prophets of old to today’s silver screen. “Save thyself” in today’s culture is the command when all else has failed, when evil has prevailed, and all else is lost.
But this clarion call is not the call of defeat, but the voice of God in Holy and Great Lent. Instead of being a self-serving command, a breaking of relationship to preserve what little is left for a new day; and instead of being a word of despair, as it is presented to us today, it is the Word of life. “Save thyself” is a plea for repentance, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, the apostolic sound. “Save thyself” are the two words of invitation given to us that beckon us to the Wedding Feast, the Banquet of the King, and to the very Kingdom of Heaven Itself. Yet how do we save ourselves?
“And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). This is salvation, this is the command of God to His people, so that they may call Him their God. This is the call of the Father to all who would become His children. To save oneself is to know God. And in order to know God, to become one with Him, we must change our heart and our ways.
The holy Prophet Isaiah begins by telling us: “Woe to those who draw sins to themselves as with a long rope, and iniquities as with a thong of the heifer's yoke....” This long rope and heifer’s thong are our thoughts urging us to commit our habitual sins. We string them behind ourselves, putting them to the back of our minds during good times, only to draw them back for our consideration in times of boredom. We keep them close to ourselves as an antidote to the pain of our existence, or to our distance from the living and loving God.
But to be one with Him, we must cut these strings of deception which “call evil good, and good evil; ...darkness light, and light darkness; ...bitter sweet, and sweet bitter.” We must humble ourselves before God and stop being “wise in (our) own conceit, and knowing in (our) own sight.” And, in this time of Fasting, we must forsake the deadening world of “wine, and ...strong drink.” For as Genesis teaches, sin is begotten of sin as Lamech is begotten of Cain; and as Proverbs tells us, “iniquities ensnare a man, and every one is bound in the chains of his own sins.”
Yet we rejoice with our foremother Eve when she says, “For God hath raised up to me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” We too rejoice when we seek God to raise up within us, once again, goodness, righteousness, and love, in the place where these once were, which our sins have killed. And Christ, in His faithfulness and love, enlivens us with His life and fills us with His love. He responds to us, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”; and His command is to “Save thyself!”
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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