Dear Brothers and Sisters, Friends of the St. Herman House,
Christ is in our midst!
On Sunday evening, March 10th, I gathered with the faithful of St. Theodosius Orthodox Church in Cleveland to observe Forgiveness Vespers, which marks the beginning of the Great Lenten journey to the celebration of Christ’s glorious resurrection. At the end of the service, the priest and the faithful greet one another with a full prostration (if they have the strength), kneeling and placing one’s forehead on the ground before standing up again. As we did this, we asked one another for forgiveness. “Forgive me brother, forgive me sister, God forgives, have a blessed Lent.” These and other words were quietly exchanged as the choir softly chanted the Paschal Canon (a set of resurrection hymns) and sang the familiar refrain, “Christ is Risen.” Forgiving one another is the only way to commence a journey of faith, and the choir’s refrain announced our destination – the empty tomb. It was a beautiful service.
There were roughly fifty people present, and I was determined to prostrate before each one. At age 63, that has become a more daunting task. At about the thirty-fifth prostration, I was having to pause and catch my breath – by the fortieth, the words of forgiveness were getting a bit too breathy. My mind began to persuade me that I should just bow instead; the prostrations were too much. As I arose, shaky and breathless on about the forty-fifth prostration, the angelic face of a beloved 80-year-old parishioner stood before me. Down she went, full prostration! I thought to myself, “Lord if she can do it, so can I!” Down I went. “Forgive me sister, forgive me brother.” Together we rose, and I found the strength to continue.
My whole body hurt with soreness until Wednesday, and with each pain and aching muscle I was reminded that however out of shape my body had become, my soul was likely a bit more out of shape. Perhaps this is the message. And how do we exercise and condition the soul? With prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. The work of St. Herman’s is a spiritual workout – “Soulercise” if you will! It takes a lot of prayer, a great deal of self-denial, and alms-giving. Alms-giving comes in the form of volunteerism, gifts-in-kind, and monetary donations. Yes- the laying down of yourself for the lifting up of others, especially those in need, always costs time and money. Please join with us in your spiritual exercise this Lenten season. You can do it! Spiritual exercise can seem as mentally and emotionally exhausting as the labor of the body in exercise, but there are always those faces, the thankful faces of those we serve, that keep us going, keep us giving. Yes, we can do it!
Your fellow servant in Christ,
H. Paul Finley, Local Director
St. Herman House – FOCUS Cleveland