Fr. David's Lent Reflections
Today is day 34 of our Lenten journey, the 5th and last Saturday of Lent. I hope Lent this year has been spiritually joyous for you, it certainly has for me knowing that you and I are reading Isaiah together, and through his remarkable book, gaining spiritual strength and insight.
I mentioned before that the book of Isaiah can be divided into two parts, punishment (chapters 1-39) and restoration (chapters 40-66). The two parts are very different, so much so that some contemporary scholars say that Isaiah didn’t write the second part of the book. This is not the position of the Orthodox Church - one can see that God spoke two very different messages to Isaiah, and the two parts of his prophetic work reflect that.
Oddly, I don’t know why, the Church does not include the famous opening of chapter 40 in the Lenten reading from Isaiah. I’m going to take the liberty of quoting it here, chapter 40 vs. 1-17: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith God. 2 Speak, ye priests, to the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her, for her humiliation is accomplished, her sin is put away: for she has received of the Lord's hand double the amount of her sins. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. 4 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and all the crooked ways shall become straight, and the rough places plains. 5 And the glory of the Lord shall appear, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God: for the Lord has spoken it. The voice of one saying, Cry; and I said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. 7 The grass withers, and the flower fades: 8 but the word of our God abides for ever. O thou that bringest glad tidings to Zion, go up on the high mountain; lift up thy voice with strength, thou that bringest glad tidings to Jerusalem; lift it up, fear not; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10 Behold the Lord! The Lord is coming with strength, and his arm is with power: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall tend his flock as a shepherd, and he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and shall soothe them that are with young. 12 Who has measured the water in his hand, and the heaven with a span, and all the earth in a handful? Who has weighed the mountains in scales, and the forests in a balance? Who has known the mind of the Lord? and who has been his counsellor, to instruct him? 14 Or with whom has he taken counsel, and he has instructed him? or who has taught him judgment, or who has taught him the way of understanding; since all the nations are counted as a drop from a bucket, and as the turning of a balance, and shall be counted as spittle? 16 And Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor all beasts enough for a whole-burnt offering: and all the nations are as nothing, and counted as nothing.”
There are many parts of this that warrant comment, but it suffices to hear these words and take courage from them. This is the God we serve, brothers and sisters, the great God who leads His people as a shepherd. Soon we will commemorate His sacrifice on the cross for our sins, and after that, the moment when “the glory of the Lord shall appear, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” on Pashca.