Others Have Been Here Before Us

14 03 2010

We are not the first to travel this path.  The spiritual journey, walking with Christ, especially during Lent can often feel like we are picking our way through uncharted territory.  In truth, however, we are not trailblazing!  The path may be a bit overgrown and too seldom used these days, but others have certainly come before us.  We do not have to discover this path to the Kingdom on our own (which should be a great relief to us!).  Sturdier pilgrims than we have worn away the grass and exposed the bare earth.  It was they who traversed the wilderness of sin and climbed the winding path over the mountain of self-centeredness.  They made a way through the dark and foreboding wood called bitterness.  We need not even mention the valley of fear and death.  We are not the first, others came before—thanks be to our Lord Jesus!

It was Jesus, after all, who did the real trailblazing.  He set his feet upon the Way of the Cross and never wavered.  The path took Him ultimately to the Empty Tomb and the Victory of Victories.  Many others have followed Him on the path, the holy ones of God, those set apart, whom we know as “saints”.  When it seems I cannot remain on the path another day, the saints give me hope.  They were human, and broken, and sinful, just like me—and they made it!  And I now enjoy the benefits of the hardened path their feet have made over these last two millennia.

Like the saints before us, we must always keep before us the joy and life that awaits the completion of the journey—just as Easter is the goal of the Lenten journey.  Alexander Schmemann (in Great Lent, on the last page of chapter 2) says it so well:

Only those who “rejoice in the Lord,” and for whom Christ and His Kingdom are the ultimate desire and joy of their existence, can joyfully accept the fight against evil and sin and partake of the final victory.  This is why of all the categories of Saints, . . . martyrs are [given special place in the church].  For martyrs are precisely those who preferred Christ to everything in this world including life itself, who rejoiced so much in Christ that they could say, as St. Ignatius of Antioch [A.D. 107] while dying said: “Now I begin to live. . . .”  They are the witnesses of the Kingdom of God because only those who have seen it and tasted of it are capable of that ultimate surrender.  They are our companions, our inspiration during Lent which is our fight for the victory of the divine, the heavenly, and the eternal in us [through Christ].

He concludes by reminding us that our corporate worship is meant to be “a constant reminder that however narrow and difficult the way, it ultimately leads to Christ’s table in His Kingdom.”

Others have gone before us and made a way, AND we know exactly where the path ends.  Do not lose heart fellow travelers!

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