The Divine Hours of Lent

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. That means the beginning of Holy Week or, put another way, that means that Lent–and death and winter–are effectual almost over. Tomorrow will be a time of celebration that, in essence, refuses to look dead-on at what will happen five days hence. Rather like the proverbial ostrich sticking its head in the ground to avoid visible and impending doom, we will hide our souls in palm branches and drown our sure knowledge of future things in rousing hymns. It is really only the three days between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday that still can break our hearts or deter us from our intentions. It is only those three, long, dreadful, last days of Lent that whisper on the other side of Palm Sunday and would, if they could, daunt us.
I began life as a poet. Or more accurately, I began life as a lover of poetry, primarily of its music more than of its truth. My father had the most sonorous of voices, and his rendering of the 19th and early 20th century English poets was as filled with splendor and wonderment as ever any poetry was. So perhaps I fell in love with poetry because I was more than a little in love with my father and his golden, well-tutored voice. I honestly don’t know about that, but I do know that I began my writing life, hoping to be a writer of poetry, of the kind my father could and would read aloud.
I never achieved that goal, but I have over the years recorded my own seasons in the medium of poetry, despite the fact that is and was in large part closed to me. In particular, when I come to this day in the Church’s year, when I come to the distracting raucousness of tomorrow and the dead, sterile dreariness of next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I pull out and read again what once I wrote about them. Here, then, are the words that finally captured, for me anyway, this last few, weary days of Lent.
St. Anne’s Parish – Lucy, TN – 1981
We must think now
in this time of a dying winter.
We must stop
and we must consider-
what is this sleep
we fear to enter?
We must think now
and we must consider
what it is
that we must consider
while the wind still sweeps
the gutters and the streets
now in this time of an ending winter.
When the mind sleeps,
the spirit wearies and grows bitter.
We must stop now
and consider
before the lilies rise,
why the god denies
an easy sleep.
We must stop now
And we must consider
what it is that can be lost to us
if the will should blanch and wither
in this time of a dying winter.
Phyllis Tickle