ANTICIPATING LENT (February 26 – April 9, 2020)   11 comments

Time out from focusing on “My Father’s House” to pay attention to the church season ahead. Yes, it is in the Christian tradition, but I hope it will be of interest starting with my atheist friends and on down, because I think we all care about the ultimate goal of the season – at least as I understand it.

To tell the truth, the season never meant terribly much to me personally before I grew up in my much later years. I do remember the year when I wanted to be like so many of my friends, so I gave up something – reading the comics. That was a major sacrifice given that my parents were scared to death about the effect the “funnies” might have on me. After all, I did greedily consume the violent ones. I guess maybe that sacrifice accomplished something – I found I had the strength of will to survive such a long period of time without a comics fix.

I was probably about 13 years old the year I gave up boys. I’m not really sure in recollection what that meant since I was certainly not busy dating, or even particularly attractive to the other sex. I do know there were times when Hallie had to go off to dances (or something) by herself because of my determination. What did that sacrifice accomplish? I don’t know – maybe a respite from having to deal with whatever changes were going on inside me.

I remember a friend in college who gave up pistachio ice cream for lent – her least favorite ice cream, I think.

And I began to hear of Catholic friends who celebrated something called Tenebrae at church on the Thursday before good Friday, working the way to Easter.

Then there was the very fortunate discovery that, at least to the Catholics in the family I married into, Sundays were a kind of day off from the Lenten fast, as was Saint Patrick’s day. That worked out well because my son’s birthday was March 17, so my Lutheran family and Lou’s Catholic family could all enjoy birthday cake between meals at his celebration. That’s when I realized that the forty days of Lent really were forty days.

As you can see, I was a slow learner. It happened one day when I was reading the gospel lesson on the crucifixion at a women’s meeting at church that I started to cry. My son was the age of Jesus when he died on the cross. The sadness washed over me. This was real! No wimpy story of some magic that happened on those two pieces of wood crossed together at the front of the church.

Finally, when I was old enough that I should have known better for decades, I realized that Tenebrae began on Maundy Thursday. Why “Maundy?” Because that’s the day that Jesus, knowing the torture, humiliation, and death he was about to endure, gave his disciples – and us — the new commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Now I can say this next thing without censure, because the Lutheran church was wise enough to block my idea of being a minister – wrong body type (until sometime in the 60s by which time I did the church the favor of giving up on the idea.)

Maundy Thursday is the most important day in the church calendar year. The new commandment – love!

Awake at 3:30 am last night, I tried to terminate the sad thoughts of all the suffering going on in the world so I could go back to sleep. Warm chocolate almond milk and raw cashews enjoyed in my comfortable chair, distracted by reading, usually does it. This time I was reading “Sojouners” with a series of articles on Lent and my thoughts piled up on “What can I do to make this Lenten season meaningful?” Giving up something just doesn’t hack it. Just as eating everything on my plate didn’t feed the “starving people in India” when I was little. It’s not about satisfying my need for personal goodness. Do something? I’ve always been a physical coward and now my age just gives legitimacy to such avoidance.

What do I do as I enjoy my comfortable chair in my comfortable home with comfortable food available with a walk down the hall? I don’t know. Sign petitions? Donate for social justice? A drop in the bucket. Maybe that’s enough. It takes many drops to make an ocean.

I know it’s important to feel the pain, but not so much that I can’t feel the joy, or even spread it. Any suggestions?

I’m hoping …


11 responses to “ANTICIPATING LENT (February 26 – April 9, 2020)

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  1. This touches me to the core, Mona. I think that if you truly enjoy life, God will be happy. For me it is not about sacrificing, but to finding a way to bring love into the moment – and if I simply cant do that all the time, to love tha part of me that can’t:)
    Happy Lent to you ♥

  2. Develop a plan to get your church involved in a relationship with a local group home. Welcome them to church and the “coffee and…” See that they are invited to any special celebrations and gatherings. If you have a Christmas tree with names to draw to provide gifts, include them. If there are some people with developmental disabilities who are able, teach them to be ushers, organize a local group home or day program to volunteer to clean the church. The possibilities are endless and whomever you invite will be so happy to be part of the “real world”. More on request.

    • Thanks, Nancy. Both churches to which I’m connected are doing a lot of that. We even have a connection with Lori here at the waters who connects with churches. But it’s been a while since I’ve had the energy to be the big organizer — or even go to church often. I think the “Just Faith” course we did years ago should be taught again, but I’m not up to the challenge. I hope whatever one does spreads like a drop of water in a lake or ocean.

      I confess, though, my thoughts were with the folks suffering the miseries of civil war displacing them from their homes as they try to escape the bombs, or families separated and being imprisoned at our own borders. I guess that’s why it interferes with sleep, because it’s so big.

      Maybe the forgiveness workshop I’ll be doing in June at Adler will put some drops in the water.

  3. Good Morning, Mona! I hope last night was free of the need for warm almond milk and raw cashews. Your way of handling sadness is healthier than my 70+ yr old friend’s remedy: a box of chocolates and a bottle of wine! When sadness or grief overwhelmed ‘Dunk’ (short for her birth surname ‘Duncan, the response was the same, day or night: a new box of chocolates and a bottle of wine!

    Maundy Thursday is the most meaningful day on the church calendar. It’s all right there! “WHAT’S all there?” The human condition seen in the light of love with eyes wide open: denial, betrayal, fear, cowardice, impetuous action, abandonment, failure, the collaboration of religious and economic-political collaboration, and more. For me, in preparation for Maundy Thursday, Jesus’s question (“Could you not watch with me for one hour?”) strikes me as the core invitation of Lent’s. “Watch. Keep your eyes open. Open to all of it, all around you and within your own inward being.

    How we do that when pain and horror barge through the bedroom door? All of what you are doing, and time out to see the beauty and to put our feet on the ground and your head looking up, placing yourself in the company of the apostles’ heirs who share our DNA, and, for me, beginning each day with The Book of Common Prayer’, Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families. “Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51)

    Enough! I hear the psalmist whispering in my ear: “Be still!” (or, as I sometimes render it, “Shut up!”)

  4. I just reviewed what I wrote and would edit it, if it were possible, but it’s not. Apologies for writing too quickly and posting it without review.

  5. I really like this one. You have such a way –I could read you all day. You would have made an interesting minister of the faith.

    Ellen Kostad Empson

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