Malankara World

Great Lent

Lessons from Zacchaeus - Importance of Lent

by Jacob Muringayil, London

During this Great Lent, I would like to bring Zacchaeus to your attention. We all know that he was short in height and hence climbed a Sycamore tree to see Jesus.

Normally, there is nothing special to note while reading that a short man climbed a tree to see Jesus. But, we should realize certain facts from this act of Zacchaeus from a Christian point of view.

Why did he climb the tree? Naturally, the answer is: he wanted to see Jesus and of course, that is the very basis of it.

But, to see Jesus, what made him climb the tree?

Firstly, Zacchaeus was aware of his weakness which made him unable to see Jesus directly which was his shortness in height.

Secondly, he knew that he needs the help of a tree so that its height could substitute his weakness or in other words, his shortness could be substituted with the height of a tree which overlooks Jesus Christ and

Thirdly, he was determined that he could take the pain of climbing the tree to see Christ or he did not mind taking that pain.

If he was not aware of all these three facts, he would not climb the tree to see Christ. In order to fulfil his desire to see Christ, he did all the above and finally got blessed by Jesus by having Jesus in his house and life everafter. He did not hesitate a little to do all the above to see Christ, because, he was sure that if he did it, he would see Christ and it happened. His awareness of his weaknesses, his trust in substituting his shortfall with the height of the tree and his determination to climb it made him a blessed creation of Christ.

This year, during this Great Lent, Jesus is asking all of us to learn from Zacchaeus to realize our weaknesses and find remedies to them as he did.

We must realize our shortness in spiritual life, the falls we had in the past and the sins we committed which together made us unable to see Christ directly, during this Lenten time.

Then, we should make it up by climbing on the tree of intercession of Mother Mary, Saints and other Venerable Church Fathers who support us always through their lively presence and prayers whenever we need to see Christ in our life and

Finally, we should be determined to take the pain of giving up our worldly life, fasting, praying, observing the Lent, confessing before the Apostolic Priest and taking part in the Holy Sacrament of Qurbono which takes us to Christ and Christ into us as happened with Zachaeus, which we have to do in all purity and holiness.

This is the season of Great Lent. In Orthodox Faith, Lents and Fasts are very important. They give the observer a special feeling of doing something in the name of Christ which is not normal in daily life. When that feeling creeps into the mind of the individual, it will naturally inspire some thoughts in his mind as to why or for what I am doing it or what is the purpose behind it. Slowly he will try to find answers to those questions and those answers will bring him a message about the existence of God, presence of Christ in our life, Faith of our Church and our Forefathers and Leaders right from the Old Testament time to the present time who lived saintly life through Lent and Fasting and the Spiritual necessity of observing them.

In addition, the change in lifestyle during Lenten period will bring the individual more of the presence of Christ and HIS ideologies. Anyone who sincerely observes the Lent and Fasting with full faith will be rejoicing in Holy Spirit as the decision to observe Lent will function as a door opener to invite Christ into own life. When someone opens the door for Christ, HE will happily occupy the room and lead the individual blessedly.

When one person receives Jesus into life, those around him in his family will feel the difference or Jesus will make it feel as it happened in the case of Zacchaeus. When he was on top of the tree, Jesus asked him to come down and then told him, "I am coming to stay with you in your house today" and HE did it. It gave Zacchaeus' whole family the opportunity to see Christ and feel HIS presence and experience the blessing received from HIM. When Zacchaeus confessed and atoned, it represented the change occurred in the whole family and it opened a new door to a divine life in their family life after. It all happened owing to the desire of Zacchaeus to see Jesus Christ and his determination to struggle for it and he was thereby opening the doors of all the hearts in his family to receive Christ though he did not mean and realise it initially.

Similarly, when one member of a family opens his heart's door in front of Christ, HE will utilize that opportunity to attract others in the family towards HIM because HE loves everyone and waits for everyone to come towards HIM. It sends us a clear message that if one person in a family is living in the presence of our Lord, the whole family will come under the shade of Christ and HIS Holy Spirit and on the other hand, if one person is living in sins which represent the presence of Satan around him, others in the family will also come under the sight of Satan and slowly he will spread his shade over to other members. As a big family, I believe, the Holy Church also is subject to the above rule and hence, it is imperative that the Holy Church as a whole must observe Lent in all holiness to purify our big family.

Lent must be the time to realize our shortfalls which leads to our determination to leave them behind for good. We must give up our desires to go after worldly comforts. If we start doing it during Lent, we will be able to spread it gradually to our entire life which includes non-Lenten time. That will certainly lead to a change of lifestyle and it represents the change of mind as a person immune to change of mind cannot work out change in lifestyle.

Dedicated observation of Lent indispensably brings about change in general attitude towards viewing the Faith, analyzing own life, learning more about Christly sermons and understanding and upholding the vitality of being part of a true Church which still goes ahead on the path lead by Jesus Christ and followed by the Saints of our Holy Tradition who dedicated their whole life to transfer the Right Faith They realized during their lifetime into the posterity. The net result of all these will be purification of souls.

When body does not get contaminated with sins, it will inspire the individual to abstain from maligning the mind and it will certainly transfer a wave of self purification which will open a way for purification of the Soul and when all the above happen, that is attaining in real terms the first stage of the purposes of our noble worship - Self Purification. We must be able to aim at this target when observing the Lent and when we view observation of lent from that angle, we are fruitful children of Christ otherwise, we are similar to the fig tree which Jesus cursed for not bearing fruit When HE was hungry. HIS hunger and thirst for our souls still remain and this is the right time we can start bearing fruits to quench HIS thirst and fill HIS hunger.

Let God's Holy Spirit lead us all in this Lenten time.

See Also:

The essence of Lent: Learning and struggling to bend our knees, mend our hearts, and lend our hands
The prayers during lent remind us that there is no use of observing lent if we do not change inside. No amount of abstinence from food and other things will help us in any way if we do not bring about a renewal inside us.

Great Lent: A Season of Renewal for All
Prophet Isaiah was emphatic in arguing that lent and fasting are not just pious "obligatory Observances" for the people of God, but a tremendous transforming force. Being mortal and feeble, humans need periodic renewal of body, mind and soul. How is this possible?

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