Lent is one of those Christian traditions that everyone seems to know about, Christian or not. I remember encountering Lent in my school days through the kids who’d show up with dirt on their heads complaining that they couldn’t eat chocolate or drink soda until Easter. Like so many Christian traditions, it made little sense to me. I mean, really. What possible reason would God have to care about who did or did not eat chocolate or drink soda?
I can’t say that my impression of Lent changed much since I became a Christian in 2003. Few people I knew actually “did” Lent. It was mentioned, but more as an archaic afterthought then a relevant spiritual practice, which suited me fine since I like chocolate (although I could do without the soda.)
But this year the Holy Spirit connected the dots between two seemingly disparate parts of my broad and somewhat mismatched spiritual community in a way that compelled me to take on Lenten observance for the first time. In this case, it was an unintentional visit to Holy Cross Monastery
in New York last year during Holy Week and a happenstance Twitter connection with a blog called Godspace
, which is written by a woman named Christine Sine, the Executive Director, liturgist and “chief gardener” at a non-profit called Mustard Seed Associates
Here’s the short version of real-time example of bridging the ancient to modern gap.
I wandered into Holy Cross last year scatterbrained, writing on deadline, with no sense of the fact that the Tuesday to Friday stay I’d arranged covered the first half of Holy Week. As with Lent, I understood the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday observances intellectually, but had not developed a heart for them that extended beyond the hour or two I spent in quiet services if I even chose to attend them. When I arrived at Holy Cross, where I had been a somewhat frequent visitor, I learned that there were several observances scheduled. Observances like the monks washing the feet of their guests and both the monks and their guests keeping watch overnight with Jesus.
For those of you who came up in the church, this may seem mundane or typical, but for me it was anything but. I had read the words of these stories, but to recreate them in this way both repelled and attracted me. It was too intimate for me. Too real. I didn’t want to participate, but a part of me knew that I had to participate – more out of awe and gratitude than duty or obligation.
So I did. And it was uncomfortable and humbling and it left me with a reverence for Holy Week that I was reminded of when Christine Sine sent out some information on Twitter about her desire to get dozens of people to blog about their experiences and thoughts on Lent. This led me to dig a little deeper about the meaning of Lent
I’d never considered that Lent was the experiential equivalent of my Holy Week encounter. A physical, emotional and intellectual preparation that extends Holy Week backward into the desert. More tomorrow on how I hope to use Christine’s Lenten Guide
to make my first Lent more than a chocolate fast. For now I’ll just thank Twitter and the Monks and ask if anybody reading wants to share their story (why you do or do not practice) during this first week of Lent. Would love to hear from you…