The Daily Offices

The Daily Offices from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, (Canada 1962), including daily Bible readings and occasional sermons from the Cathedral of the Annunication of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa

Monday, February 27, 2006


In three days, we shall begin our annual Lenten journey. In his Lenten Pastoral Letter to us this year, Bishop Wilkinson, at the beginning makes the point, “It has often been said that in Lent we are on a journey. Lent is going to take us somewhere. This is the common, traditional, Christian teaching.” He quotes the late Orthodox theologian, Dr. Alexander Schmemann, “Above all, Lent is a spiritual journey and its destination is Easter, the Feast of Feasts.”

Few of us, I suspect, need reminding of the intensely personal nature of Lent as we make our respective journeys towards the annual celebration of our Lord’s Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection. But as we prepare for this undertaking of personal examination, discipline, and spiritual growth , we may do well to ponder that which today’s Gospel reading puts before us, and in so doing, perhaps find our journey more fulfilling.

“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem,” Jesus says to His Apostles as they begin that final journey to the Holy City where the events of the Passion shortly were to transpire. “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge Him and put Him to death; and the third day He shall rise again.”
Surely, here is the most essential aspect of our Lenten journeys – we are to go up to Jerusalem – with Him. Through Lent, we are to walk with Jesus, knowing as He did, what was to befall Him; and, thus to share in His Passion, to acknowledge our own part in the events, in the sins, that put Him to death, but, finally, and joyfully, to gaze upon our Resurrected Lord, He Who is the Divine Love that transforms and heals us, Who makes us at one with God.

The Gospel passage tells us that, immediately after Jesus had finished His words to the Apostles about the events that were to take place in Jerusalem, “they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them.” Which is to say, in a sense, they were blind.

The episode that then follows on the road to Jerusalem involving the blind beggar, as real as it is in terms of the manifestation of the Divine Love as shown in our Lord’s compassion, as important as it is in teaching us about faith, is above all symbolically important. We, like the Apostles, are so very limited in our ability to see truly and thus to comprehend fully. We are also very much like the blind beggar, or at least we should recognize ourselves to be so, spiritually.
Wednesday past, we began our study of The Sermon on the Mount, beginning in Chapter 5 of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. What is the very first, arguably foundational, Beatitude? “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Of the two Greek words for poor, Matthew chose the one that means absolutely destitute to communicate our Lord’s teaching that only when we admit our utter inability to save ourselves, only when we acknowledge our spiritual blindness, and therefore, only when we faithfully place our spiritual welfare completely in God’s hands, do we become clay fit for the heavenly potter.

“Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, ‘Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee’.” As we absorb this lesson that true faith is faith in God only, not faith in our own accomplishments or abilities – we cannot heal our blindness ourselves – a light begins to dawn. Like the Apostles and the blind man, but only through the compassionate Divine love, we leave darkness. Our Lenten journey with our Lord, then, is from darkness towards light, as we walk with Him, placing the outcome of our spiritual journey utterly and completely in His hands.

In addition to whatever physical discipline we may undertake this Lent, in addition to whatever devotional reading, in addition to whatever resolve to be more faithful in our daily prayers, may we above all keep Him as our companion on that journey.

One of the more traditional exercises in which we may collectively participate is Friday evening Stations of the Cross, beginning the Friday after the First Sunday in Lent. Granted, these focus our attention on our Lord’s Passion and Crucifixion; but those are after all, the climactic events of the season leading up to Easter. The practice of praying the Stations developed gradually, likely because the majority of Christians could not go to Jerusalem every year to retrace our Lord’s footsteps to Calvary. Certainly, by the 17th century, they were in general use, not only in the Roman Catholic church, but also in Lutheranism and Anglicanism. The traditional Stations are based mostly, but not all, on the events as recorded in Scripture, with a few based on the constant traditions of the Church; e.g. our Lord falling more than once under the weight of the Cross. Pope John Paul II formulated a revised series of Stations based entirely on events, as recorded in Scripture, of the Passion, Crucifixion and Death of our Lord, but these have not yet replaced the traditional series.

I mention Stations, as they very clearly place before us what happened at the end of the journey to Jerusalem. If we are prepared to join our Lord on that journey, then might we all consider completing that journey to the very end? Personally, I have found Stations one of the more effective ways, at least mentally, to “take up my cross and follow Him.” But, as much as I would encourage everyone to join us for Stations, I must also issue a warning. Use of the Stations may include the following side effects: loss of pride, tears of thankfulness for our Lord’s vicarious suffering resulting in a willingness to forgive our neighbours for any fault, increased fervour in prayer, a heightened desire for the welfare of others, and a sudden God-inflicted humility as the impact of the knowledge that our own individual sins were those that nailed Him to the Cross dawns in our spiritual minds. Please consult your spiritual director before undertaking the Stations.