Sunday, January 27, 2008

Reflections on Lent

I have always loved Lent, and I'm excited about its approach. I remember being in elementary school and learning about the season in Sunday school and giving up ice cream without telling anyone; I only gave in on that commitment once or twice which was pretty good for a fifth grader, I think. Something about a season for fasting, prayer, repentance has always resonated with me. I think part of my interest in the season is the fact that it recognizes the frailty of human nature and our reliance on God. It goes against the notion to pursue happiness and consolation when I'm instead instructed to fast, reminding me that the world is still suffering. For though it has been redeemed, the world still “refuses to acknowledge its redemption,” as Hauerwas writes. But in the midst of fasting, I also need to continue to remind myself of the happy paradox that Lent draws its purpose from the coming joy of the resurrection. Holding onto both at the same time: joy and suffering, peace and repentance, seems to be a bit of what Christianity is about.

I've been reading Julian of Norwich, and she has been very helpful for me in thinking about this. She writes of our human condition that "we have in us, for the time of this life, a marvelous mingling both of weal and woe: we have in us our Lord Jesus uprisen, we have in us the wretchedness and the mischief of Adam's falling, dying." For now, we live in the turmoil between these two. “Sin is behovely, but all shall be well,” she writes. Julian's statement that all shall be well was not a burying her head in the sand or just a feel-good statement about a God who somehow meets all of our desires, no matter how selfish. God is too gracious to always give us what we want, I think. She understood suffering: she almost died at the time when she received her mystical visions. That all shall be well turns out to be an invitation to join with Christ in his suffering, that one day we might share with his joy. So I pray that for this Lent, I might hang onto both, the “weal and woe”: recognizing human frailty, the suffering and injustice present in the world, my own need for repentance; and relying on Christ and the joy of his resurrection, with faith that all really shall be well. Or perhaps, it already is.

-John Orzechowski


Daniel said...

Very moving! Thanks for preparing us for this season! I look forward to joining you as we recognize what "already is."

living stones said...

Thank you so much for posting this; I have always loved Lent as well for many of the reasons that you have shared. I feel it is a powerful reminder to be simple, be humble, and be sacrificial in order to press on ever more to our inward 'true selves.'


racotton said...

Well, I don't quite like your last sentence--forgive me but I will have to ponder it some more. But I already love your overall reflection. It's beautiful and meaninful and helpful. Thank you for sharing it! And Jennifer's comment above about our "inward 'true selves'" is deeply insightful and strengthening. I'm grateful for all of you!
--Rickey Cotton

living stones said...

This was a very helpful reflection. As a child I remember Lent being a very dramatic time, and I didn't "love" it. The somber covering on the statues and the focus of "giving up something" was hard for me.(It seems significant that as a child you didn't "tell anyone" about giving up ice cream.) Thank you for writing "...Lent draws its purpose from the coming joy of the resurrection. Holding onto both at the same time: joy and suffering, peace and repentance, seems to be a bit of what Christianity is about."


Sarah said...

Well, I haven't always loved Lent--but I think only because this Lent will only be the second I've ever observed. Coming from a Protestant/Baptistish/Pentecostalish non-denominational church background until about a year ago, I never realized how much the tradition I was brought up in utterly rejected and put away the beauty of spirituality.

This is what draws me so strongly to the liturgical tradition--everywhere I look, the mystery, the paradox of God's relation to man shines forth. The "happy paradox" you wrote about first dawned on me last year, at the end of Lent--Holy week. I went to the Maundy Thursday service, and the removal of all items from the altar was heart-rending in its symbolism. But as the dark silence swept us into itself, I remembered--the joy of Easter was only three days away.

Here is reflected the central paradox of our faith: only through dying do we live.

living stones said...

What a meaningful exchange this is!
-- Paul Corrigan

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