A Reflection For This Lent When Services Are Not Being Celebrated

Beloved, consider the following story from the Life of St. Mary of Egypt. It tells us about the Lenten ascesis or spiritual discipline that a certain monastery near the Jordan River practiced every Great and Holy Lent:

After Liturgy [on Forgiveness Sunday], the gates of the monastery were thrown open, and singing, “The Lord is my light and my Savior; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 26), all went out into the desert and crossed the River Jordan. After crossing the Jordan, the monks all scattered far and wide in different directions. And this was the rule of life they had, and which they all observed – neither to talk to one another, nor to know how each one lived and fasted. If they did happen to catch sight of one another, they went to another part of the country, living alone and always singing to God, and at a specific time, once a day, eating a very small quantity of food. In this way they spent the whole of the Great Fast and used to return to the monastery a week before the Resurrection of Christ, on the eve of Palm Sunday. Each one returned having his own conscience as the witness of his labor, and no one asked another how he had spent his time in the desert. Such were the rules of the monastery.

Now think about this: these monks did not go to church for 40 days, but how did they spend their time? I don’t think there were restaurants or movie theatres or shopping malls in the wilderness of the Jordan, much as it is now in our current circumstances.

Read again the story above and contemplate how this Great Lent can be unique and sanctifying, in a very new and different way, yes, but still a journey toward holiness and intimacy with Jesus Christ.