Great Lent is breathing down my neck. It flashes on my calendar each morning, bold and ready, announcing the start of the new season, this vital bit of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Without Pascha what reason do we have to engage in this constant struggle? Great Lent offers a keen reminder of this. I welcome it even as I shrink away from the calendar each morning as I see it drawing closer and closer.
This year I’m a part of the family, fully participating and engaging. It’s exciting and it’s daunting.
We’re out of step with the rest of the world. It happens of course, the difference between the calendars always finding us on again, off again, on again. It’s 5 weeks this year though, the furthest apart the two celebrations can be. I feel this. I get it. The symbolism of being out of step could not possibly be lost on me, the awkward “weird” kid in grade school who daydreamed and doodled and said strange things, made strange faces and passed out during the Stations of the Cross.
My bouts with unconsciousness were so famous in grade school that girls would ask to not be seated next to me in during the Lenten Season. My head and the cold hard tile were on intimate terms. In the end the would seat me by the side door and open it when I began to turn white as a sheet. It was always near the end of the Stations, when the nails were pounded and I saw the blood draining from Christ’s body, sweat pouring down his face, his body shuddering, trembling without consolation. My head would swim and darkness would envelop me with only a little warning. I never remember the falling, the fuss, Sister Martha and the gym teacher carrying me outside. And I would dream, briefly, vividly, contentedly until a single spot of light would appear before me. It would shimmer and expand and I’d hear voices around me, breath beginning again and sweat that had formed on my face and hands and then I was awake.
I would tell myself in those years that the dreams were from God, meant to tell me something important, something I ought to remember and to tell to others but always just out of reach, just out of step.
So as I begin Great Lent, my first as Orthodox I find I’m drawn back to my strongest experience of Lent, falling unconscious year after year as Father Boyle moved from station to station telling again the story of us all as Christians, the reason we are who we say we are, who we hope to be. I’ll miss Stations of the Cross even if I won’t miss hitting my head on the floor time after time. And yet I’m looking forward to maybe being able to finally reach into those moments, when God would whisper something important, something I ought to remember.