"[Orthodoxy has] a quality of sad joyfulness, a sense that life in a minor key is life as it is. Christianity is a religion of suffering. The suffering of Christ and of the martyrs is at the center of the Christian tradition and suffering grounds the Christian to the suffering of the world. As the old slaves knew, suffering can't be evaded, it is a mark of the authenticity of faith."
(an excerpt from "A Sorrowful Joy" by Albert Raboteau).
There is something about having your legs hurt, your back hurt and your stomach growl that makes you realize two things: how weak you are and how powerful God is in that weakness. Participating in last night's Presanctified Liturgy and Canon of St. Andrew of Crete at church helped remind me of this again. (see also Clifton's great post today about the canon).
The reality of suffering is something many people, and sadly many Christians, tend to run away from. We want our faith to be easy, light, and fulfilling. But this is not the way of the cross. As Matthew Gallatin wrote, "The Orthodox faith calls us to fast and pray continually, to confess our sins and to weep bitterly for them, to deny our personal pleasures and comforts for the sake of the kingdom, to yield to our spiritual fathers' guidance, to mistrust our own subjective opinions and emotions, to take up our cross daily, to genuinely forgive the unforgivable, and to wholeheartedly love the unlovable. In short, it calls us to live a life that is entirely "not of this world" (John 18:36).
As we begin the long trek toward Golgotha with our Lord, in anticipation of his glorious Resurrection, we must hold the paradox of what so many of the Fathers call "joyful sorrow." We weep for our sins, but rejoice in God. We mourn our mortality, but expect the resurrection of the dead. This Lenten springtime that the Church provides, guides us in this paradox.