Collect Yourself in Lent – Week 4

Collect Yourself in Lent - Week 4

The meditation on the Collect Prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.[1]

We have reached a turning point in the season of Lent.  The deep themes of sin, repentance, and reconciliation that have dominated the first three weeks of Lent now give way to another message; that reinforces Christ’s presence at the center of all that we do and are meant to be.  This week we turn to Jesus as our sustenance; that which gives us life and all that we need for life.

In Eastern Christian traditions the fourth Sunday in Lent commemorates the 6th Century abbot St John of the Ladder.  St John served as the abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai, one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world.[2] He is perhaps best known as the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, in which St John describes the spiritual struggle of the Christian life as a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against…the rulers of the present darkness…the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places..”[3]

The_Ladder_of_Divine_Ascent_Monastery_of_St_Catherine_Sinai_12th_century

12th century icon The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Saint Catherine’s Monastery – Mount Sinai, Egypt)

As we walk the Christian life and grow deeper in faith and closer to God we ascend the divine ladder to heaven, only to be knocked down by sin and temptation.  The desert mothers and fathers firmly believed in that very real struggle against the evil of this world for our souls.  If the powers and principalities of this world are trying to knock us down the ladder, then how can we possibly reach the divine?  What is knocking you off your ascent of the divine ladder?

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”[4] These words spoken by Jesus point to our sustenance for the struggles that we will endure on this spiritual journey.  “[I] am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever…”[5] In our collect prayer we affirm Jesus as that heavenly bread that is given to us to feast upon, so that we can endure the temptations and trials of this life.

In this fourth week of Lent, may you see more clearly those things that cause you to slip off the divine ladder, and may you continue to feed upon the bread of life so that he may abide in you and you in him.  Amen.

[1] The Book of Common Prayer, 219.

[2] “Saint Catherine Area,” whc.uniesco.org, accessed January 19, 2016, http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/954.

[3] “The Orthodox Faith – Volume II – Worship – the Church Year – Sundays of Lent – Orthodox Church in America,” The Orthodox Church in America, accessed January 19, 2016, https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/sundays-of-lent.

[4] John 6:35 (NRSV)

[5] John 6:51 (NRSV)

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