In the Orthodox Church, the first week of Great Lent (known as “Clean Week”) is quite the workout. We have services everyday. In addition to standard Lenten services such as the Presanctified Liturgy and the Akathist, we celebrate the service of Great Compline with the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. Thus, from Monday afternoon to Sunday morning, the people of St. Thomas Orthodox Church gathered in prayer for over 11 hours last week!
As we celebrated Great Compline by candlelight, I was struck by how completely counter-cultural it was. The iphones were turned off. There were no televisions in sight. The services were neither shortened nor rushed. Instead, we prayed. We prayed for Sioux City, for our country, but–more than anything–we prayed for our own souls.
It was something quite different. We asked God to remove our weaknesses, to soften our hearts, and to see our own shortcomings. We didn’t advance political agendas. We didn’t discuss the economy. Instead, we asked for God to heal our heart and to mend our broken spirits.
To many, it may seem like a waste of time. Almost no money was left in our collection trays. Although we had double digit attendance to all of the services, it was nothing close to a usual Sunday morning. But to the dozens of people that came to worship at St. Thomas during Clean Week, it was something different.
Our hope is that as God heals us, and the Light of Christ grows within us, we can radiate that Light to others. St. Thomas can be that “city on a hill” for all of Sioux City. We can be healing balm for all of Siouxland–but, it must start with the humble offering up of our brokenness. It must begin in weakness and that . . . is something radically different.
Fr. Lucas Rice