February 19, 2018: First Monday of Lent; Clean Monday; The Holy Apostles of the Seventy Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and Onesimus Philothei the Righteous Martyr of Athens Niketas the Younger.
Sixth Hour: Isaiah 1:1-20
Vespers: Genesis 1:1-13
Vespers: Proverbs 1:1-20
The first reading of the Great Fast comes from the Prophet Isaiah. In his opening lines, we hear God contrasts the spontaneous obedience of the animal world with humanity’s rebellion against Him:
Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.
As the reading progresses, we get a sense of the breadth and depth of human sinfulness. Even my worship of God has become corrupted by sin, it has become a “vain offering … an abomination” that corrupted even the natural astronomic cycle.
Later at Vespers, we read Genesis. And again, there is a stark contrast between life as it is and as it was meant to be “in the beginning.”
As it comes from the hand of God, creation is ordered. This order embraces even the great forces of the heavens and the earth making it possible for them co-exist in peace and harmony.
In our sinfulness, we have in a sense then fallen lower than not only the animal kingdom but even the impersonal forces of nature.
So what then are we to do? How do we find our way out of this mess and back to our original state of peace and harmony?
Throughout the Fast, we read from Proverbs, Solomon’s book of “instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity.” Rooted in the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” we must cultivate prudence. We need to acquire by instruction and practice the ability to do the right thing, to avoid the extremes that plague us in a fallen world.
It is the prudent individual who is wise and who knows how to not follow sinners whose “feet run to evil” as “they make haste to shed blood.”
And where do we find this wisdom? We find in our careful, prayerful attention to the ebb and flow of daily life. ‘Wisdom cries aloud in the street; in the markets she raises her voice.”
A blessed Fast!