After the service, we all participated in the rite of forgiveness. The line snaked around the nave as we individually went up to Father, got down on our hands and knees in prostration before him and asked for forgiveness for anything we did to him this year or anything we left undone. He did the same, and we embraced in the kiss of peace. We then went down the line, repeating the same action with each and every person in attendance. Even if you barely knew the person. Even if the person was your own angst-ridden teenager. You asked for forgiveness from them all. We all fail each other in one way or another. We all need forgiveness. Lent is about repentance, and if we ever hope to be forgiven by God, we have to start by doing some forgiving of our own.
Even little Hilary participated this year. She's been too shy in the past, but this time, she basked in the love of dozens and dozens of kisses. I wonder what she thought she was doing? She was told, but what did she really think it was all about? When she came to me in the line, I had to hold her back as she immediately lunged at me to kiss. I grabbed her by the shoulders and tried to look in her eyes. I hadn't even asked for forgiveness yet. She just smiled and pushed through my grip to kiss my cheeks. Isn't that how it should be with everyone? What if I could do that? What if I could forgive before other people even get a chance to ask? To push through the barriers of tension and baggage to forgive first. To kiss and forgive with abandon. What a place that would be!
Afterwards, we indulged in an ice cream social. Piling the mounds of frozen goodness with chocolate and whipped cream, we enjoyed one last celebration. The fast begins in earnest, now. Meat has been gone for a week, and now dairy is gone, too. We won't see them again until Pascha.
Clean Monday, the first day of Lent, is a chance to clean out your body and your mind. In Greece, they make it a celebration, complete with kite flying. When I suggested that we try to fly a kite, my husband and daughter laughed so hard, I thought they might hurt themselves. It really wasn't that crazy of an idea! O.K. Maybe it was...but it would have been a good memory. No kite flying here on this bitterly cold day. Instead, we walked our new dog at the park in between snow storms. Isn't she cute?
There's something about Lent beginning on a cold, snowy day that is fitting. We're at that point in winter which comes every year. That point where I'm beginning to doubt that spring could ever come. It's cold and wet and snows almost every day. The cold has seeped into my bones, and I'm never truly warm. Pascha in the spring seems years and years away.
Sin is like this winter. It blows and drifts in every corner of my life. It comes every day with no break and seeps down to my bones. Sometimes, I can't begin to imagine a life without it. I can't even begin to see spring. Lent, the journey of repentance, takes me there, though. Takes me to the Resurrection.
There's some cleaning I need to do this Clean Monday. Clean my body. Clean my soul. The crisp, bitterness of the day is a good place to start. In Christ it's warm and inviting. In Christ, I'm just around the corner from the thaw.