|Posted by thethousandmarch on March 8, 2011 at 11:55 AM|
The season of Lent is upon us. Last year I tried to do the traditional fasting from meat. It was my first attempt at observing Lent. My goal was not so much the exercising of my will power, but the experiencing of a little of what it's like to go without so that I might gain some compassion for the poor and pray for them. Trying to avoid meat was a hassle for my wife and in-laws. And, it didn't make me think about other peoples' needs, or pray for others any more than I already do (which to be honest isn't much). So, I gave up my fast after a couple of weeks.
This time I'm not giving anything up. I'm simply going to try and spend some time in reflection and preparation. I return to the garden metaphor I took from the Armenian Orthodox scholar Vigen Guroian, last year I wrote: for us in the northern hemisphere Lent marks the end of winter’s sleep and the rebirth of spring. It culminates in the celebration of our savior Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Because of the time of year during which Lent occurs it is a natural time to spend extra time in contemplation. It is a good time of year to spend extra time in preparation. It is the time of year in which the gardener begins the arduous process of preparing their garden. They break up the soil, cut out death and decay, pull up weeds, prune what was left unchecked in the fall, and plant seeds. All this hard work is part of the process that brings forth the future flowers and fruit. This season of Lent I'm just going to actually spend time in my garden. I'm going to treat it as a 'spiritual discipline'.
I have trouble praying. I have trouble doing spiritual things; probably because I'm a physical person. So, in an effort to prepare myself, I'm just going to go about the physical process of preparing my garden. I'll try to spend some time in prayer while I'm working, but I think that just the physical act will help to clean up my spirit without me having to worry about it too much. Perhaps this is the secret of Brother Lawrence, who wrote Practicing the Presence of God. He was a monk who became particularly good at being aware of God's presence. He was, from what I understand, a monk who spent most of his time working in the kitchen, not praying in his cloister. The person who finds themselves in God's presence may not be the one who does a lot of talking.
* Of course we're also going to celebrate Pancake Tuesday tonight and we plan to go to an Ash Wednesday service as well. I don't think I've ever gone to a full on Ash Wednesday service, just an abbreviated version and that hasn't been since college.