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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wandering Hearts

Perhaps last night you stood for several hours in a darkened church singing the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.  If you didn't, and would like to read it, here you go.
If you did, you probably only heard about half of it. The rest of the time, your mind wandered.  That's not by accident.
Most Orthodox services way overshoot the normal human attention span.  Then again, so did a lot of events in the Bible:
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me."
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt."
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done."
And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.
Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." (Matthew 26:37-46)
We can't focus for even five minutes.  Our minds race and flit from thought to thought.  When we try to concentrate, we do so with great difficulty and only receive modest improvements after years of ceaseless effort.
It is reminder that we can't even begin to repent without divine intervention.  If you wonder why someone can relapse after tasting the freedom of abstinence, or why we return to sin almost immediately after going to Confession, it is because we are constitutionally distracted.
Lent is not something achieved.  It is endured.  It's purpose is to remind us that we cannot pray or repent without God's help.  Once we accept the proposition that we are utterly incapable of helping ourselves, then we finally arrive at that place where real change can take place.
yes, we must continue to try, but the real work is not so much in the progress as it is in the effort.  If we continue to focus on making the effort, we will make progress.  If we keep trying to achieve progress on our own, the effort often seems insurmountable.
Accept the failures of this time, and keep trying.  God will heal you even when your heart wanders... so long as you wander back.
If you leave and never come back, then you'll never experience joy.

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