“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)
Has the Lord closed any of His “doors” to us? No. In fact, in these weeks leading up to Lent, we’re repeatedly reminded of how willingly He exchanges “house-visits” even with the “worst” of us, whenever we open up to Him, in repentance. Two weekends ago, we heard 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. Last weekend, we celebrated another tax-collector, somewhat bolder than Zacchaeus, who “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 was rewarded with “going home” not empty-handed, but with the great blessing of being “justified” (Lk 18: 14). And this past weekend, we celebrated the Prodigal Son’s return to his Father’s house, the doors of which had never been closed to him.
The Lenten hymn quoted above, which we’ll be singing every weekend until the end of Lent, captures our attitude, as Church, to this “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!