The Top of the Mountain

Numbers have never been very close to my heart, but during Great Lent I find it encouraging to track the days with the help of Fr. Thomas Hopko's 40 Maxims. Today is Day 10, which means we are already one-fourth of the way through the fast. While preparing some music for this weekend, I discovered something else: this is also the halfway point in the period of the Triodion, which begins several weeks before Great Lent itself and continues all the way to Pascha. So if this period of spiritual struggle were a mountain, I'd be standing on its peak this afternoon.

The rich irony, however, is that absolutely nothing about this afternoon feels like a peak. If anything, I feel like I'm at the bottom of a pit (something like this, actually.) Since the New Year I have heard more bad news than I know what to do with, and I'm talking really bad, heartbreakingly bad. My professional life is in shambles, too. I just learned that that word, "shambles," actually refers to a slaughterhouse -- so it's sadly appropriate. My curriculum is bleeding to death slowly on a floor of wintry weather: delayed openings, early closings, canceled events, and students who believe the entire world stops for a snow day, or should. Amid the abandoned plans and crises and unmade beds, literal and metaphoric, that clutter my path, I just can't seem to find that place of deep spirituality that Lent is supposed to usher in.

So I'm going to focus instead on the bright spots I've encountered in recent weeks. Things like this book that I read during a recent snow day and cannot stop mulling over, which taught me so much about the ways that sin and selfishness creep into our lives but left me with nothing but hope and inspiration to do better at rooting them out with God's help. Or this priest, who served the church so faithfully he was killed returning from Vespers last week: thousands of ordinary people, friends and strangers alike, have banded together to support his family, raising nearly half a million dollars and counting in the last two days. And above all, this Scripture, which our deacon quoted in a homily last Sunday in a foretaste of what we will encounter on Holy Saturday. Sometimes God delivers us from the furnace; sometimes He throws us in. Our job is to pray. Just pray. So I'm sticking to that. 30 days to go.