“Open to me the doors of repentance, o Lifegiver; / For my spirit rises early to pray towards Your holy temple, / bearing the temple of my body all defiled. / But as The Generous One, // purify me by Your abundant mercy.” (Byzantine Lenten Hymn, Sunday Matins)
In these weeks leading up to Lent, I’m thinking how willingly our Lord exchanges “house-visits” with us. Last weekend, we heard the reading about Zacchaeus, a tax collector who scrambled up into a tree to catch a glimpse of Christ, from afar, – and the Lord rewarded his humble efforts by visiting his house. This weekend, as Lent draws nearer and we begin to chant the “Lenten Triodion,” we celebrate another tax-collector (or “publican”), somewhat bolder than Zacchaeus. This one “went up” not into a tree, to see the Lord from afar, but into the very house of the Lord, “into the temple,” to pray (Lk 18:10). And he, too, was rewarded with a “house visit” by God’s grace: For the humble, sincere way in which he prayed, he’s rewarded with “going home” not empty-handed, but with the great blessing of being “justified” (Lk 18: 14).
The Lenten hymn quoted above, which we’ll be singing for the first time this weekend, and then every weekend until the end of Lent, captures our attitude, as Church, to this mutual “open door policy” we have with our Lord. We need His help, to keep it going. Because, while we know His doors are always open, ours tend to get stuck in forgetfulness or neglect, and occasionally need some oil on their hinges. So we ask for His “oil,” for His grace, to help us open up again to His transfigurative fellowship, with which He challenges us again and again. “Open to me the doors of repentance, O Lifegiver,” because I’m ready, Lord. I’m ready for repentance, and for the beautiful Season of Positive Change, which is Lent!