By John Sanidopoulos
Great Lent should be a time of increased spiritual awareness and struggle. We pray more, we fast more, we attend church services more, we study the divine writings more, and so forth. But sometimes Great Lent could bring on other struggles, that only become spiritually profitable if we place them in the right spiritual perspective.
Though I began this Great Lent in the above mentioned ways, praying and fasting more and attending more church services, things took a slight turn for me about three weeks ago. It all began after I had to have one of my wisdom teeth extracted because it broke, and to prevent an infection I was placed on an antibiotic for seven days. Towards the end I began to feel cramps in my stomach continuously for four days, so I began to take a probiotic. A few days after I completed the antibiotic I noticed rashes spreading throughout my body, especially my legs.
To make a long story short, the rash appeared about three weeks ago, and got a lot worse over the next week. In one week I had to go to the emergency room four times because of various symptoms. It wasn't until last Friday that I found out I had an extremely rare infection that usually only children get (especially those with leukemia), and it is a lot more rare for an adult to get, which is called H.S.P. Vasculitis. It baffled all the doctors and specialists I have seen, and I became almost a sideshow attraction for all the doctors who had never seen something so rare in an adult. It's not dangerous, but it can be fatal if it gets to the kidneys or lungs and remains untreated. I had a little scare this past weekend when I got pain in my kidneys and I had to be admitted into the hospital, but after being hydrated overnight through an I.V. I felt better and my kidney function returned to normal.
Those who follow my websites will probably have noticed I have not posted as much as I usually do, and this has been the main reason. Almost every day I have had to go to a hospital or see a specialist about it, and if it wasn't for this reason then I was visiting my grandfather who is in the last stages of lung cancer. I was told today by an allergist that what I have has already peaked and I should be getting better soon. This was good news as we are about to begin Holy Week.
Because of this infection Great Lent became for me another struggle. I had to stop fasting because this infection causes stomach issues and I am now slightly anemic, but I am still on a certain diet. And because H.S.P. Vasculitis caused blood vessels in my legs to burst, it is difficult to stand for any amount of time, so I have hardly attended any church services, but the pain is improving. However, this Great Lent for me has still been spiritually fruitful.
We begin Great Lent with the lament of Adam for the consequences of the Fall, and living with pain and a rare condition certainly reminds you that you are living in a world of corruption, suffering and mortality. It makes you understand the lament of Adam in a more empirical way. A theological sense of pain as a blessing from God prepares and stabilizes the life in Christ. It is important for one to stand theologically opposite death, to converse with it, be familiar with it and to acquire experience of the memory of death as an event and a charismatic situation. It is important to feel the existence of the transitions between life and death, between death and resurrection, between corruption and incorruption in Christ. Pain is a tragedy, but there is also a sweetness to it in the context of the ascetic experience and the warmth and hope of the Resurrection. In this context pain should not be just dealt with, but it should be accepted as a friend and a brother.
We all struggle in various ways, but only when our struggle is placed within an ecclesiastical and theological perspective does it become beneficial and salvific. This has been my struggle for the past three weeks. Thankfully I am getting better and I hope this Holy Week I will be able to attend church daily. And hopefully I will be able to resume posting as usual from now on.
I pray that everyone has a spiritually fruitful Holy Week, and a glorious and joyous Resurrection.