The Honesty of Lent

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Honesty. It hit me last Sunday when I went to visit Cynthia and take her and Jack Holy Communion. She shared how she had not gone two weeks without Communion since 1978, so there was no question that I needed to be there. She and I sat in her kitchen talking while Jack ran an errand, and we ended up telling stories (as we usually do). We picked up with long-running conversations and also started new ones. I noticed a theme throughout all of them: what does it mean to belong to a community in which we can be honest about ourselves? What does it feel like to help create (co-create with the Spirit) a space in which we can set aside shame and guilt and pick up redemption and wholeness?

On the drive home, my mind went back to the special Evening Prayer service we had on the First Sunday of Advent. A few dozen of us gathered outside on the porch, tossing slips of paper into the small fire. We had collected notes on those things in our lives we were holding on to–and those things which we felt were holding on to us. As we started the new liturgical year, we ritually experienced the purgation process of “letting go” of those things which we had taken the time to name in our hearts. I had three slips that summarized an enormous amount of work that God and I had shared over the prior couple weeks. As I watched my slips of paper burn, I felt released from burdens–a release that only comes when one is honest about a struggle.

For me, this Lent will be about honesty. We had a tiny sip of the richness of this ritual significance on the First Sunday of Advent. We now have six weeks to enter into a time of intentional reflection, discernment, and prayer. Lent is a beautiful time, a time in which we realize that true beauty isn’t about being pretty. It is about experiencing the profound. The significant that oftentimes comes packaged in starkness.

lentpebblesDuring Lent, we strip away any glamour that may distract us from the hard work of spiritual discipleship. The water in the font is replaced with the pebbles of a desert. The flowers on the chancel are replaced with winding limbs which sculpturally catch our eye and make us reflect. The “alleluias” are put away and replaced with the chants of “Kyrie Eleison, Lord Have Mercy.” Our eyes become less distracted, in hopes that they can turn more inward to search those recesses of our hearts. In those nooks and crannies we find spiritual gold, the treasure that comes from preparation and dedication and spiritual practice.

This Lent, what do you need to be honest about with God? What conversation do you and God need to have in order for you to step into that space of new life and wholeness you dream of? That season comes next, the season of flowers and lushness. But first, we need the desert and the spaciousness of reflection….and honesty.

Fr. Stuart+

 

Link » Offerings for Lent 2016

 

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