getting ready for Lent

At House Meeting we decided: simple meals. You’d think living earth to table as we do that our meals would be simple.  But, most everyone loves to cook and experiment, improvise, and embellish. “So for Lent, just plain steamed vegetables, instead of braised with cream sauce and caramelized onion for example…down a few notches of fancyness.” Everyone nodded. Wistfully, perhaps? No, everyone seemed eager to observe Lenten asceticism.

No movies or television via Hulu and Netflix. No idle chatting. A quiet household. For me this means realizing that I’m whistling or singing in the convent. I don’t think I’ll stop whistling or humming or singing at St. Aidan’s where Bill and I live.

Fridays will be a silent day, and a fast from food. The sisters also decided to fast from artificial light at night.

Kitchen Geraniums at St. Aidan's.

I don’t think I’ll adopt this last fast, although I’ll be keenly interested in the observations the sisters share about the discoveries of night. For me, night is for painting and creating on paper. And because we’re busy most nights, the Friday of silence will give me a full evening to play with color and shape and exploring latent creativity.  Besides the usual Lenten ways of self-examination, disciplines of virtue, service to others, various kinds of asceticism, reflection, and more silence (ah, Holy, Wonderful, Fulfilling, Rich, Silence!) painting prayer helps me learn who I am before God, before others, before myself. The texts erupt into images. Where do they come from? How do I render them? When I don’t use them, and the images flee, where do they go?

Bill said, “Painting in the darkness would be interesting though, wouldn’t it?  Like drawing with the non-dominant hand.”

One of our sisters draws and paints with her non-dominant hand to access her unconscious in therapy. She’s collected an inspiring and extraordinary body of images over her life-time. On rare occasions she’ll share a painting in a sermon or presentation.  We’ve used her paintings as meditation. Some images, “seeing with the full eye” or various cracked or shattered hearts now inhabit our own collective images among us in community, like an abbreviation or proverb or acronym or a nickname. When I was a university chaplain I had a copy of one of this sister’s non-dominant hand drawings hanging in my office – a mother deeply listening to and comforting her crying child.

Bill said, “Maybe you should draw in the dark.”

I answered, “I don’t think I want to know myself THAT well.”  

I hope your Ash Wednesday and your Lent is full of blessings and insight!
Let us work for peace in our time. Amen. Suzanne

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One Response to “getting ready for Lent”

  1. Dru Ferguson Says:

    Suzanne, Thank you so much for your words about the Collect of Purity. The thought that ‘if I can’t do it right I won’t do it at all’ absolutely fits me. You’re words both comforted and challenged me.
    And, they also gave me the ‘piece’ I needed to complete my homily for tonight (recognizing you, of course).

    It is so damn hard to give up control……and Lent is the perfect time to spend time with that struggle.

    By the way, I feel as if I know you a bit, through our good friend Jamie.
    She thinks so much of you and gave me your website. A God send I think. dru

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