Jesus came, and comes now, to convert us, through love, to change our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh – to love us so much that we shed tears of repentance. And change our ways.
-Br. Geoffrey Tristram
Bola Sete – Ash Wednesday
The great Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete helps usher in Lent 2014! Today is Ash Wendesday, the first day of the Christian season of Lent, which for many is the most contemplative time of the spiritual calendar. Christians are marked on their forehead with ashes as a reminder that from dust we emerged and to dust we will return. Suitably, this song is quite bouncy and cheery. This may seem a strange way to kick off Lent. After all, if observed at all, Lent is usually equated with fasting, giving things up, contemplating the suffering of others… a long dirge of a march to Holy Week and the story of Jesus’ initial moment of triumph, only to be betrayed, humiliated, beaten and executed. Easter finally ushers in the lasting triumph of resurrection. Growing up, going to catholic school, we always brought home little cardboard containers which were covered with pictures of starving children and information about how much it would cost to feed one person, one family, one village, etc. It was very effective in cultivating awareness within me of what reality was and is for millions of people. And I would dutifully put any money I happened to come across into the container and return it to school as Holy Week began. The monks of SSJE have used Lent as an opportunity for a prolonged discipline of prayer and reflection. They see it as a season to truly cultivate depth in our prayer life, and indeed, learn how to pray and stay in close communion with our spiritual life. I am really looking forward to this season. This is an opportunity to smash the idea that such spiritual practices are dreary or a grind and embrace the season as a time to do the work of spiritual planting – I am certain if done, a harvest will emerge.
Lent 2014 pt. 1: The Great Re-set Button
“Do-Overs,” “Fresh starts,” and “new years resolutions” are popular ideas in the USA. Who doesn’t want a fresh start or a chance to hit the re-set button? I know I do and in many ways, the church calendar does that for me. Especially Lent. Lent is a season of fasting and repentance that starts with the Ash Wednesday invocation of ashes and the accompanying statement “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return; repent and believe the Gospel.” We are dust and we need God; real bad. The 40 day journey allows us to take a step back from the trajectory of our life and asses where we need to adjust and how we can once again journey with Christ to the Cross, through the tomb and rise again on that glorious Easter morn with Him and His church. In short, Lent (and every church season) allows us to hit the re-set button of our lives.
I especially need that in my life this year; I need to repent and place my entire focus on Christ. This became very evident to me last week when I was struggling through a personal situation and I read the Book of Common Prayer collect for the week:
Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The calling of God is to live in such a way that the only thing we fear is losing Christ and I was afraid of several things far removed from that. Time for a re-set: “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return; repent and believe the Gospel.”
Two ways that I engage the season of Lent are 1) fasting and 2) creative expression. I limit what my body, soul, and spirit ingest for 40 days and I take the that time to pray or serve those in need as well as making space to visually create what God is teaching me about myself and my relation to Him. What both those practices do is SLOW ME DOWN. Only when we slow down can we hear the still small voice of God whispering that we are His Beloved and in us He is well pleased. Hearing that voice will take us to the cross, but the cross always leads to resurrection! Don’t let Lent pass you by. Hit the re-set button and come to a greater realization “that you are dust, and to dust you shall return; repent and believe the Gospel.”
In the comment section, talk about how you are engaging Lent 2014.
“ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we,worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness. may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”— Collect for the first day of Lent, commonly called Ash Wednesday.
“Now there cannot be a fitter time than that the Church has set us forth, that is now, at this time of the year. For now is the time of the year to plant in. In the picture of the months, in this next month, you will see nothing but men grafting and setting trees: it is the husbandry and the business of the month, wonderfully fitly chosen therefore that this tree may keep time with the rest. And now is the time that the sap goes up; so as there could not be a fitter time for St. John to call upon us …
— From Lancelot Andrewes’ sermon before King James I, Ash Wednesday 1624 (HT Catholicity and Covenant )
And with high wisdom is this time so set that the time of our repentance, the forty days of it, end in the Passover, in the passing of wrath over us, as did the destroying angels over the houses in Egypt. That the mortifying of sin might end in the rising of Christ in us. The use of fruit is fruition; and this is the fruition in this life, even the fruits of the Spirit, fear and love and joy in the Holy Spirit. And in the life to come, the fruit of the tree of life in the midst of Paradise.”
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual…
Ash Wednesday is February 13th; it is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics. For those who do not know Catholics put ashes on their heads as a reminder of their mortality. Upon receiving the ashes we hear the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”