“Thus says the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace. Thus says the Lord of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts; In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the garment of a Jewish man, saying, ‘We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8: 19-23)
This is the reading at Vespers today, on Cheesefare-Friday, a day when no Divine Liturgy is celebrated, and our church-services include other Lenten moments, like the Prayer of St. Ephrem with great prostrations. As Lent is just two days away, the prophetic text reminds me that times of fasting are times of “joy and gladness.”
It also speaks prophetically of our time, the era of the Church and her beautiful traditions, like Lent, when “many people and strong nations,” like ours in both East and West, “shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem.” We direct our gaze toward Jerusalem, the Holy City where one Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, buried, and resurrected on the third day, according to the Scriptures, as we begin our Lenten journey toward Great/Holy Week and Pascha. In our day people like us, “from every language of the nations,” from all over the world, “grasp the garment of a Jewish man,” – the garment of our Lord Jesus Christ that is His Church, saying, “We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you.”
So let me re-direct my gaze toward Jerusalem today, and toward the Cross erected there two millennia ago, as I reach out and “grasp the garment of a Jewish man,” Who leads me to renewal, in the life-affirming season of Lent. “We will go with you,” Lord, as You lead us on the Lenten journey, re-teaching us to “love the truth and peace.” Amen!