This morning, James and John desire to be seated with Christ in His Glory. And our Lord, to test them, asks whether they are able to drink the cup that He drinks, and to be baptized with the baptism with which He is baptized. James and John answer, “We are able!” The response from Jesus, in a nutshell, is: be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Today is the last Sunday of Great Lent, and on Friday evening just five days from now, we will begin the celebration of Holy Week. Friday evening will open a ten day long procession to the cross, to the tomb, and to the resurrection.
And as we get ready, our Lord extends the same invitation to us as He extended to James and John. To all of us who wish to see His glory, who desire to be by His side at Pascha, Jesus first says to you and to me, “but are you able and willing to drink the cup that I drink from? Are you able to walk with me through Holy Week? Are you willing to be by my side, and to carry my cross with me?”
I hope your answer is yes. I hope that Pascha is not just a Sunday on which we show up, having given no thought to Christ on the days of Holy Week.
To help us prepare — to help us take up and drink from the Lord’s same cup — I wanted to share a list of 10 things to do during Holy Week. These are ten recommendations for how to be baptized with the same baptism with which our Lord is baptized.
(1) Go to as many services as you can. We offer a large number. Usually, at least two each day. And if you can’t go to every service, set aside time to read prayerfully through those you cannot attend. It is through worship that we return and unite ourselves to Christ. The services of Holy Week are not just memory exercises. Holy Week is a single unbroken Liturgy that over ten days invites us to participate in the saving lo
If you desire to seek success in the work of prayer, adapt all else to this, lest you destroy with one hand what the other builds.
1) Keep your body strictly disciplined in food, sleep and rest. Do not give it anything simply because it wants it; as the Apostle says: "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Romans 13:14). Give no respite to the flesh.
2) Reduce your external contacts to the most inevitable. This is for the period of your training in prayer. Later, when prayer begins to act in you, it will itself indicate what can be added without harming it. Especially guard your senses, above all, eyes and ears; also tie your tongue. Without this guarding, you will not make a single step forward in the work of prayer. As a candle cannot burn in wind and rain, so the flame of prayer cannot be lit in a flood of impressions from outside.
3) Use all the time left from prayer in reading and meditation. For reading, choose mainly such books as deal with prayer and generally with inner spiritual life. Meditate exclusively on God and on divine matters, and above all on the incarnated dispensation for our salvation, chiefly on the passion and death of our Lord and Savior. Doing this you will always be immersed in the sea of divine light. In addition, go to church, whenever you have the possibility to do so. Merely to be present in church will envelop you in a cloud of prayer. What then will you receive if you stand throughout the service in a true state of prayer?
Every day of Great Lent, with the exception of Saturdays and Sundays, the prayer “O Lord and Master of my life” is read. According to tradition, this prayer was written in Syria in the fourth century by the ascetic Mar Afrem or, as we have grown accustomed to calling him, Ephraim the Syrian. He was a monk, poet, and theologian, one of the most eminent sons of the Syrian Church, who entered world literature as a remarkable writer.
The words of the prayer, which were quite accurately transmitted by Pushkin , sound as follows when translated from the Syrian: “O Lord and Master of my life,” that is: Ruler of my life, Who gave me life, Who is the center and focal point of my life. “Give me not a spirit of idleness,” that is, laziness, which is, according to the old adage, the mother of all vices. Laziness seems like an innocent thing, but it engenders much that is dark and black.
“Despondency.” Christianity is a joyful doctrine; joyful, too, is he who is despondent – for it will leave him. St. Seraphim of Sarov, the great Russian saint of the nineteenth century, said: “We have no ways to be despondent, for Christ has saved everyone.”
“Ambition.” This means love of authority. Everyone has it; do not think that the cult of personality exists only in politics: it can also be present in the family or in any small community. Everyone has in himself the seeds of the aspiration to crush the will of others, to strangle and subdue it.