Does it feel like Lent already?
Our Angus makes epic pancakes. His skills have been honed over many years and are offered to a packed Rectory on Shrove Tuesdays, with dogs waiting to catch the crumbs falling from the table: this year it would be an illegal gathering. This Lent will be different. It can start with no personal touch when imposing ashes, no quiet words proclaiming our mortal nature: just a silent sprinkling of the ash. Lent can’t end with the intimate and uncomfortable act of foot washing. Our journey through Lent will be more lonely, possibly more reflective.
During plague in the 1300s, ships had to wait before landing giving rise to the term quarantine, referring to 40 days of isolated waiting. Thus echoing Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness, Moses’ 40 days in the thick cloud on Mount Sinai and our own journey through Lent. However, if we need to be more self reflective, let us not be more harsh on ourselves. We already have a form of quarantine imposed.
Lent is often about giving things up and for good reason. We need to live more simply, more humbly recognising our impact with on the environment and wider humanity, while exploring God’s call upon our own lives. However, for a year now, we have had to give up so much. This year I will be avoiding a harsh Lent and following the advice of George Herbert in the poem Discipline. He calls on God, and to my mind our own inner voices, to:
Throw away thy rod;
Though man frailties hath,
Thou art God:
Throw away thy wrath.
This is because, in aligning our wills and desire to the divine, it’s not our self abasement that helps: “Love will do the deed.”
So I am encouraging you to a gentle Lent. If you would like to take something up, I recommend, Seeing Differently: Franciscans and Creation written by three Anglican Franciscans. Post covid, we need to honour God and creation to build back better. This book can lend insight as the pandemic recedes, drawing on both: the environmental poetry and acts of St. Francis; along with Franciscan theologians who brought depth to his vision. Encouraging us to honour creation, all humankind and God. I would love to explore this with others - let me know if you’re interested.