"Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, O Master; and Thy holy Resurrection, we glorify."
The Third Sunday of Great Lent leads us to the Cross and our veneration of the "life-giving wood of the Tree." We are thus almost exactly at the midpoint of Great Lent.
Two polarized reactions could be formulated as follows: The sighing lamentation "Is that all?" or the more upbeat "That's fast!" Of course, there is the soberly realistic: "It is what it is." Whatever the case may be, perhaps at this midpoint, we could make an honest assessment of how our lenten effort has unfolded so far.
Have I/we embraced a "lenten way of life" and is it proving to be fruitful? If so, we need to continue for the duration. "Fight the good fight" to the end as the Apostle Paul exhorts us. Or, has it been "hit-or-miss" and rather haphazard so far? In that case, we may need to start over again - or simply start. In Hebrews we hear: "Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees."
Whatever the case may be, we have the Cross before us this weekend for our heartfelt veneration, anticipating the endpoint of our lenten journey, when we will stand at the foot of the Cross. We cannot enter the empty tomb without first standing by the Cross of the Lord: "For through the Cross joy has come into the world!"
If we take all of this seriously - which I hope that we do - you may consider the full cycle of services this weekend: Great Vespers on Saturday evening and the Liturgy on Sunday morning. It is at the Great Vespers service that the decorated Cross is brought out in procession, placed in the midst of the church, and then venerated by all of the assembled faithful. That can serve to also engrave the Cross in our minds as we prepare for the Liturgy and the Eucharist.
The challenge is to "make room" in our "busy schedules" for that service. It is not the time to seek entertainment or other distractions that can easily be postponed. It is, rather, the time to take action and to put the life of the Church first in our lives. It is also a wonderful service for our younger children who will see and experience true Orthodox worship and the place of the Cross in our lives.
If your lenten effort is going well, the cycle of services with further strengthen you. If your lenten effort has faltered, here is the opportunity to begin anew and rekindle that flickering effort. Be serious and active about what you claim to believe and about whom you claim to believe in.