Our Bishop has invited each of us to deepen our personal relationship with Jesus during the Lenten Season; that is, to pay attention to Jesus calling us, as he has done from the instant each of us came to be, to be drawn into his love. The church offers us many ways to deepen our living relationship with the Lord through the sacramentals, and making an offering and light a votive candle is one way we can express our love for the Lord. During the Lenten season it is most fitting to enter church, kneel, and light a candle at the foot of the cross and offer a prayer, perhaps one like:
O Lord and Master of my life
Take from me the spirit of sloth,
Faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience and love to Thy servant
Yea, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
And not to judge my brother;
For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
This beautiful prayer is attributed to Saint Ephrem the Syrian of the fourth century and it has been incorporated in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Lenten Liturgy, read twice at the end of each Lenten service Monday through Friday. This ancient prayer is a spiritual masterpiece in that it is a check list for our Lenten effort to grow in holiness.
Alexander Schmemann in his book Great Lent points that “at the first reading of the prayer, a prostration follows each petition. Then we all bow twelve times saying: O God, cleanse me a sinner.” The body participates in the prayer, he continues just as the soul prays through and in the body. To kneel at the foot of the crucifix can be a profound sign of humility. To kneel at the foot of the crucified Jesus who was obedient even to death on the cross can be a sign that we pledge our obedience to him whom we adore as Risen Lord. During these Lenten days kneel at the foot of the cross, light a candle and pray this ancient prayer of the early Christian Church. Such a gesture prepares us for the veneration of the cross on Good Friday when we hear these words: Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world. Come let us adore!