Run from Sodom and Gomorrah! Run from the flame of every deceiving desire!”
(Ode 3, Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Monday)
If all that was required of us during Great Lent was to merely refrain from meat and dairy products we would probably come out of it just as we had entered, minus a few pounds. No, there is definitely something more that must fill these days and that is certainly prayer. That is, if we are called to eat less than we are simultaneously called to pray more as our Lord advises: “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
One service characteristic of Lent is the beautiful Canon of St. Andrew which we serve on the first four days of the Holy Fast. The Synaxarion notes that this Canon “incites every soul to emulate and imitate to the best of its power all the good things, and to flee from all that is bad, and always to come back to God by repentance, by tears and confession and by every other way of well-pleasing.” Listening to the Canon is like taking a stroll through the Scriptures as we are given the examples, one by one, of different Biblical figures, some to emulate and some not. As we sing in the Canon: “I have reviewed as examples for you, O my soul, all the figures of the Old Testament. Learn to imitate the deeds of those who in righteousness loved their God, and flee from the sins of the wicked!” (Ode 8, Tuesday).
Among the many references is the one made to the unfortunate Lot. It was Lot, as we read in Genesis, and his uncle Abraham who were forced to separate due to their combined wealth. And so Lot “lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere…like the garden of God….and Lot chose all the plain of Jordan for himself…” (Gen. 13:10-11). Although it would seem that he received the better end of the bargain in the end it turned out only to be good on the surface.
For, as a result of his choice, Lot would suffer war, kidnapping, oppression by the citizens of Sodom and ultimately the death of his wife. But God, through the intercession of Abraham, saved him. Angels were sent to warn Lot that he must flee and showing him his only salvation, they exclaimed: “Escape to the mountains, lest you be overtaken”. In no way do they force him into those high hills. Nor does Lot necessarily feel that he is being coerced for he hesitates a bit. Although he truly does want to flee and he senses the great danger that is coming he still, oddly enough, doesn’t want to go too far. Fr. Patrick Reardon notes that Lot is like those people who “once they have settled down somewhere, are reluctant to move away, long after the situation has proven itself hopeless. Such souls are excessively fond of the familiar, the sort of folk who image all manner of evil that may befall them if they change neighborhoods.”
And so Lot doesn’t look too far from his miserable dwelling. Instead he looks to a neighboring city and says: “See now, this city, which is small, is near enough to flee to for refuge…”. We know from the story that Lot did indeed take refuge while his wife, on the other hand, was tempted to take one more look and with that fateful glance she “became a pillar of salt” (Gen. 19:26). She is just one of the examples from Scripture which does not invite imitation, an example even our Lord used when He says with admonition: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
Certainly we all have passions burning within us that, unless they are suppressed, will potentially send fire on us as well. Lent is that very time we are to use to take heed to that warning and to take flight as far as we can from those sins. A mere short distance will not do but it is the mountains we ourselves are called to go. May our eyes ever be fixated on that eternal prize glimmering in the eternal heavens, taking no frenzied glances at that which can only give us momentary pleasure. For, we remember, “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
A blessed Lenten season to all.
Fr. Milovan Katanic
Source: Again and Again