Lenten Themes

Always, as I prepare for Lent (and there is a big Lenten post coming up with lots of links, reading suggestions etc), I find that there is a common theme that is being put before my eyes -something that I figure I am meant to particularly pray about, work on or discipline myself to, with God’s grace, over the course of Lent.

Now, clearly, I am such a wretched and faulty creature that any headway I do make (and it is scant) is pure gift and not by my own merits. Someone asked me the other day how I can pray so much “and still be such a pain in the ass?” And the answer is, of course, “I pray so much because I need lots of help. I trust that God is not done with me, yet.”

Any improvements are incremental. I’ve learned, over the course of a decade of psalmody, that the Lord works by His own unfathomable and completely trustworthy clock. He sometimes answers instantly, but mostly seems to work even more slowly than the Vatican, yet with perfect timeliness.

What I can say without reservation is that prayer, liturgy, the sacraments -these things have done me nothing but good. I shudder to imagine the glittering holy terror I would be without them.

Remember, last year I seemed to dance between Shadows and Light, the Lent of ’08 was almost unbearably self-revealing.

Neither of those seasons ended up being what I had anticipated, so who knows what this one will bring. But for now two themes have been before me all week, and I am trusting that they are “my” themes for Lent. The first has been a challenge set to nagging at me: “am I not more to you than ten sons?”

To be honest, it scares the hell out of me.

I want to believe this is nothing more than God giving me something to hang onto during Lent: “am I not more to you than ten Hershey Kisses?” “Am I not more to you than ten hours of ‘net surfing?” “Am I not more to you than ten writing gigs?”

I’m sure it will end up going much deeper than that; nothing ends, in Lent, as it begins. So, I step forward in leery trust. God help me.

The other theme began with the Feast of the Presentation, and my enduring fascination with that story, with Joseph and Mary, and Simeon and Anna – particularly with Simeon and Anna’s constant watchfulness. Today in the Office of Readings, we read from Proverbs 8:1-5, 12-36, a lovely reading on the Word (“when he established the heavens I was there…“) that ends thusly:

So now, O children, listen to me;
instruction and wisdom do not reject!
Happy the man who obeys me,
and happy those who keep my ways,
Happy the man watching daily at my gates,
waiting at my doorposts;
For he who finds me finds life,
and wins favor from the Lord;
But he who misses me harms himself;
all who hate me love death.”

Bang! We suspend Ordinary Time on an unambivalent note. I have much to learn. And clearly, I must pay attention.


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