Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Lenten Journey

One of the two books of Lenten reflections I’ll be using this Lent* is Springtime of the Soul, produced by the Congregation of St. Joseph. As a candidate for consociate membership with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province, I was recently gifted with a copy of this particular Lenten guide.
In the book’s introduction, Marianne Race, CSJ, reminds us that, “Lent is a time of holy waiting, waiting for death and new life.” Accordingly, Springtime of the Soul’s collection of Scripture readings and reflections encourages us to “trust the transforming power of God’s life within [us],” and reminds us that, “What is given to you will flower and rise in beauty even as Jesus rises from the dead at Easter.”

The second text I look forward to spending time with this Lent is Edward Hays’ The Lenten Labyrinth: Daily Reflections for the Journey of Lent. Hays describes the season of Lent as “a great adventure and a journey of transformation which holds the power to change – to radically enrich – [our] way of thinking, loving, and believing.”

Hays also reminds us that as we begin such a journey today, Ash Wednesday, we’re not alone: “Know that as you prepare to make the first step on this journey, you are doing so in the company of many other pilgrims,” he writes. “Not only do you walk in faith with others around the world today, you are accompanied in your pursuit of holiness by the holy ones of previous ages.”

In addition to using these two Lenten resources to facilitate prayer and reflection, I also hope to spend time actually walking a labyrinth, as well as engaging in some creative work with mandalas – something I hope to write more about in a future post.

All of these endeavors seek to create time and space within which I may be open to the transforming presence of the sacred - both deep within me and beyond me. They are ways of saying: “I am here, Great Spirit. I am here.”

Such a trusting, expectant attitude reflects the words of Marianne Race, CSJ, who, in the introduction of Springtime of the Soul observes that during Lent we are asked only “to be soft ground that we might receive the gift, the seed, and allow it to be broken open and nourished; allow that which is already planted within [us] to come to life.”

Accordingly, in these quiet times that I will be intentionally cultivating during Lent, I will trust that God’s transforming Love will guide my thoughts and prayers, and lead me on that journey of transformation and radical enrichment referred to by Edward Hays; that Spirit-filled journey of consciousness and compassion which our brother Jesus so beautifully embodied, and calls each one of us to likewise embody.

My creating of such sacred time and space will inevitably mean other things in my life will have to be put aside, minimized, given up. Yet rather than focusing on what I’m “giving up” for Lent, I’ve long found it more helpful and encouraging to focus on what I’m proactively creating; what I’m lovingly embracing for Lent.

I realize that this may not work for everyone. Nevertheless, because an almost masochistic approach to Lent can be encouraged by some elements within the Church, I feel compelled to offer this alternative way of looking at Lent – especially to those in need of a new and re-energizing perspective on this important time of the liturgical year.

Whatever words, imagery, and undertakings you employ in your understanding of and participation in Lent, may this Lenten season be a blessed time of renewal and transformation for you.

Behold, now is the acceptable time;
behold now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2

* The traditions of Lent come from the season’s origins as a time when the church prepared candidates, or “catechumens,” for their baptism into the Body of Christ. It eventually became a season of preparation not only for catechumens but also for the whole congregation. Examination of conscience, study, prayer, and works of love are disciplines historically associated with Lent. Conversion - literally the “turning around” or reorientation of our lives towards God - is the theme of Lent. Both as individuals and as a community, we look inward and reflect on our readiness to follow Jesus in his journey towards the cross. The forty days of Lent correspond to the forty-day temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and the forty-year journey of Israel from slavery to a new community.

See also the previous Wild Reed post: The Onward Call.

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