Guide me in the paths of salvation, O Theotokos, for I have defiled my soul with shameful sins, and have wasted all my life in slothfulness, but by Your intercessions deliver me from all uncleanness.” (Second half of Byzantine Lenten Prayer, “Open Unto Me the Doors of Repentance”)

And so, just before we begin the great journey of Lent, I ask for help. Because all sorts of unwanted junk or “uncleanness” has accumulated in my spiritual “house.” As we sing in this prayer, I have “defiled” my soul, which literally means “trampled on” it (from the Old French “defouler,” to trample on). Today I surrender it all, letting go of what’s been hoarded or tucked away. But I don’t do it on my own, asking for the help of the Theotokos, and indeed of the entire Church, of which She is not “only” the symbol, but the grace-filled, willing and caring Birth-Giver.

Help is on offer today, also in the Rite of Forgiveness, as we grant and receive forgiveness from one another, empowering one another for the upcoming journey. Let me reach out today by suiting up, showing up, and entering into the communal “house-cleaning” of mutual forgiveness. I also ask forgiveness of anyone reading this, my beloved zillions. May we all be “guided in the paths of salvation,” be it quickly or slowly, as we open up and let ourselves be nudged in the right direction, by an ever-caring Mother.

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