I did it again! I lost the Holy Family as they disappeared into the crowd of shoppers in Jerusalem. After giving up I decided to look instead for the older Jesus to see if He was ready for me to protect Him in the wilderness when to my surprise the Holy Spirit appeared.
"Your Majesty!" I exclaimed and bowed low. "To what do I owe this honor- again- so soon?"
His majesty replied in a soft calming voice, "I regret that you felt uncomfortable after our last conversation. You most certainly have a lot to learn. I would have sent Gabriel to tell you about this new phase, but it is too complex to delegate. Knowing you as I do, you may need extensive explanation."
I wasn't sure if I should be honored by God's visit or insulted, but His words certainly aroused my curiosity.
The Holy Spirit continued,"You are entering the period of the year that the Bride calls the Triodion. In her loveliness, She tries to mimic Me by knitting together the Old Covenant with the New."
"A Bride who knits, you could have done worse, My Lord!" I responded to see if I could make the Holy Spirit smile, and to see what that would look like.
Success! He flashed me a sparkle and continued: "My Bride will soon play with time more than you have ever seen Her play with it before. She will layer and fold it tidily until centuries appear to be as one concept, one purposeful stepping stone."
"Sounds interesting my Lord. I suppose the Triodion has something to do with Your Trinitarian-ness. So, what is She going to do?" I asked, trying to get back on topic.
"Very good! Sorry I got side-tracked. Like Me, She loves the number three. Today marks the beginning of the Triodion period because it is three weeks before the Great Lent. This three week period is the first of three. To top that off, each day She reads three lessons, 1. Historical from Genesis during Lent, and the Exodus during Holy Week, 2. The Prophets; Isaiah during Lent and Ezekiel during Holy Week, and 3. Wisdom literature; Proverbs during Lent and Job during Holy Week."
"My Lord," I commented, "don't you think that is a bit too much play on the number three?"
"No I don't!" retorted the Holy Spirit in a way that had me cringe. Then He added, "No one minds kaleidoscopes do they? I think it is beautiful! The second Period of the Triodion is the 40 days of Great Lent."
"So, why isn't it 30 days of Lent," I asked, "and take the theme all the way?"
"Where have you been all this time? Are you the most ignorant angel in the heavens?" I could tell that this was not a rhetorical question. The Holy Spirit demanded an answer.
"Well, sire. The truth is that I like to fly." I confessed sheepishly. "I was flying through the universe, always trying to stay on the dark side, so I could imagine that this time-fling of yours would be over and we could go back to the way it was. Before being exiled to earth, I had no idea of what was transpiring here; nor did I care." I said frankly.
With my response, the Holy Spirit's thoughts drifted back to life before time, when all was darkness and void and spirits formed a miasma of ennui that was so strong and powerful that God felt compelled to do something bold, like create the universe. Snapping back to my pathetic situation, God patiently said, "without giving you an entire history lesson let me say that the number forty has been repeatedly significant. Remember just last week when Jesus was presented at forty days because of the 40 years of traveling through the wilderness after the Passover? There was also Moses who visited me on Mt. Sinai for 40 days when I gave him the tablets of the Law, and soon you will be accompanying Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days, and then there was the 40 years of David's..."
Cutting His Holiness off I said, "Okay, okay, I get it. What is the last of the three parts of the Triodion?"
"The last," He answered, "is Holy Week. I will let you go there to find out for yourself what that means. The important thing to know is that the Bride will knit together many of those experiences of forty in her Great Lent. But the overriding theme will be the fall of mankind, when Adam and Eve did the one thing in the whole wide world I told them not to do, so they lost their immortality and I expelled them from Paradise. Did you even know about that?" He said looking at me at the same time exasperated and compassionate.
"I believe Gabriel mentioned it to me." I replied, not quite sure I was right, but to save face. I intended to learn the details as soon as I could.
The Comforter was comforted in the knowledge that my experience of the full Triodion Period would teach me part of all that I had to learn about the Church, the Bride of Christ, since the beginning of time.
God bellowed, "Now I command you to return to the church of your choice today, and pay special attention to the Gospel reading. Jesus will teach you from His parable about the Publican and the Pharisee. It is about the difference between hubris and humility, something you, of all My angels, need most to learn about. Go, and without any acrobatics!"
It took me a moment to absorb all the knowledge and wisdom that God had just tried to impart to me. Remaining in place, I sat perfectly still and quiet. I tried not to think, lest I would distort the message with misunderstanding, but rather I allowed echoes of the rich hallowed vibrations to penetrate undefiled into my angelic psyche. After a time and a half, I allowed myself to consider which church to fly to. The cathedral of the Holy Wisdom in Washington, DC instantly came to mind, surmising that the Wisdom of God would want me to be there.
I arrived to find a chanter and a priest chanting and praying in the large Cathedral with only one worshipper, ten minutes later, a second person arrived. Then I recalled that the people drift in little by little, not seeming to mind that they had missed the part of the service that related most to the uniqueness of the day.
"Welcome back!" exclaimed Poppy. "It's so good to see you! Where have you been? We have missed you!"
"Shhh! I can't talk now. I am on a mission. I'll tell you later; it's a long story." I replied, agreeing in my heart that it felt great to be back and to see Poppy again."
Everyone in the pews stood up, as the tall young dark-haired priest in an elegant deep green satin vestment embellished with a gold cross on his back turned with book in hand which he set down on a golden podium and read:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The priest shut the Book gently; looked up at his flock and said, "Humility is the foundation for all our spiritual labors. The best way to prepare for the fast ahead, the best way to prepare for our journey through the wilderness of the Great Lent is to do everything in our might to shed our pride and self righteousness.
The stench of self-esteem and of boasting drives away the grace of the Spirit. Pride strips man of all his virtue, and casts him away from our great and most powerful God who condescended to take on flesh and suffer for our sakes. The contrite prayer of the Publican, who recognized his true state of humility was actually being Christ-like, and through that divine attitude qualified himself to enter Paradise.
Not at the beginning of Lent, but NOW in the pre-Lenten season of the Triodion, let each of us guard our own heart from the corrosive effects of pride. Let the strongest, and richest, and most successful among us know that our earthly strength is our heaviest burden, like having a bolder tied to our ankles, when it comes to our ability to traverse the wilderness, combat the devil, survive the cross, and receive Christ's outstretched hand to pull us too out of Hades."
Stunned at these words I looked at faces in the congregation and noticed a tear here and a bowed head there. A couple here and there were clutching each other's hand. The scene was no less than marvelous. Then snapping back into my old sarcastic mode, I thought, 'So the Bride can knit, AND She is a good mother. What a lucky guy.'