Joyful Sadness: The Journey to Easter
Most assuredly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and
you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy (John 16:20)
As Great Lent begins, we embark upon a challenging but rewarding spiritual journey towards Easter, the Feast of Feasts. It can be tempting to begin the fast focused solely on the difficulty of the fast itself, which is why it is important to begin the fast with the correct attitude and intentions. We should firstly remember our destination – the joyful Resurrection – the defeat of death and the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is beautifully portrayed during Matins on Monday of the first week of Great Lent: “Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, so, clothed in raiment of light, let us hasten to the Holy Resurrection on the third day.” This “rallying call” at the commencement of Great Lent reminds us of Christ’s words to His followers on the correct way in which to fast: “And when you fast, do not look dismal … But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret” (Mat. 6:16-18).
Therefore, we should joyfully embrace the fast and humbly turn inward and reflect upon our spiritual state. Fasting helps keep us disciplined and sober so that we can more clearly open our spiritual eyes. Our journey is full of opportunities to grow: we confess our sins to our spiritual father and seek his guidance; we attend the many unique Lenten services and feel the joy of learning more about our faith and ourselves through them; we commune more often; we relive the harrowing events of Christ’s Passion while keeping in mind our Lord’s love, forgiveness, and His impending Resurrection – bestowing the ultimate joy of eternal life upon us all.
As our internal battle increases in intensity and effort, we feel the progress we make in overcoming our passions, and in growing in virtue. This arduous journey of tears – both for our sins and our separation from God – paradoxically fills us with joy as we grow spiritually and draw nearer to Jesus. In the Ladder of Divine Ascent, Saint John Climacus writes: “Keep a firm hold of the blessed joy-grief of holy compunction, and do not stop working at it until it raises you high above the things of this world and presents you pure to Christ.” Let us all work towards this goal during Great Lent.
Source: Lychnos February/March 2020