Well, the winter Olympics came to a spectacular conclusion this past weekend. The pageantry of the opening and closing ceremonies always amazes me. What also amazes me is the effort put in by the athletes. It is hard to imagine spending four years of your life training for shot at the Olympic games. Not to mention that most events are over in a matter of seconds or minutes.
I would imagine it is safe to says the all of the athletes, medalists and non-medalists alike, find themselves changed by the event and by the training. Most, if not all, of those athletes are different people by the time the games come to a close.
I think that in many ways, Great Lent is much the same. Lent is almost like a training ground. It is the training to make us ready to celebrate Pascha, that moment of the Resurrection of Christ. The same way that Olympic athletes train four years for that spit second of competition, we train 40 days for that split moment when we see the church clothed in white, the bells ringing and the refrains of "Christ is Risen" filling the Church.
The challenge of all of this is that we too must find ourselves changed by this "olympic" event. We cannot allow ourselves to go through Lent, the additional services, the added prayer life, the adult education opportunities and not be changed. We cannot experience the beauty and majesty of the Resurrection of Christ and not be changed. If we do, then we have not truly put in any effort into the Lenten season.
Certainly, we can go through Great Lent as we go through the rest of the year, doing whatever it is we want to do. Or, we can make a truly Olympic effort in our Lenten journey and experience what the true joy and meaning of Pascha really is. God give each of us the strength to shoot for the gold medal of prayer, fasting and worship as we journey towards the Resurrection of Christ.