Welcome dear feast of Lent

Welcome dear feast of Lent, says George Herbert.

Velaszquez, St. Antony and St. Peter the Hermit, detail, 1635

I can’t count how many people have said to me over the years, “ I just LOVE Lent!” But Lent, in the Northern Hemisphere, is when you’re running out of the winter stores and the greens have not yet sprouted in the earth and you’re half starved. It’s a fast imposed by the land and climate. We were wondering a few days ago what our own stores at the farm would be like if we didn’t use freezers (which use energy). Trying to live close to the land and reflecting on food this way opens to us the fragility of life and the abundance we take for granted. I mean, we could just go to the A&P and pick up all sorts of wonderful foods at any time of year if we wanted to.

But just thinking of the A&P and how overwhelmed and disoriented I get in big grocery stores, reminds me of the larger majority of people in the world for whom a grocery store like this a decadent dream. Fasting widens the boundaries of compassion, stretches the heart, makes room for love.

Mother Teresa on her speaking tours in the United States was always quick to point out that the obscene abundance of the West fostered malnourished souls.  Maybe so many folks love Lent because it’s time to set aside other things in order to tend the starving soul.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast 
           As may our faults control:

That ev’ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlour; banqueting the poor,
            And among those of his soul.*

And the starving soul responds like a desert flower, the seed quickened by the spring rain, shooting up quickly and blossoming radiantly, it’s face tracing the sun’s path through the day, and closing modestly in the cool of the night. Look at the wildflowers! Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these!

But another reason for both fasting and nourishing the soul is to prepare for the Great Feast of the Resurrection. I was interested in the Orthodox teaching about Tabor Light, (Last Epiphany A) and that hell is simply encountering the Presence of the Divine unprepared, thus the unbearable anguishing burning of Reality.  Lent is the time of soul-searching, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, for seeking and facing truth. Sins are simply those things which obstruct a loving relationship with God and neighbor. And so, in Lent you expose your sin to the Light and let it burn. Better a lot of little burnings and taking in growing increments of Divine Light than one terrible shattering blast of Reality.

And the snow will melt, the hens will warm up, they will scratch around the ground and fill up the egg boxes again. And my soul will stretch and give more love than I thought possible even after the last Lent.

-Suzanne

* George Herbert
    Lent (excerpt)

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2 Responses to “Welcome dear feast of Lent”

  1. Diane Says:

    My eye rested on this line, “And my soul will stretch and give more love than I thought possible…” Thank you. Diane

  2. Pat McKenzie Says:

    Particularly when we feel the truth that a result of sin is “separation from God”

    To me, Lent seems to grant strength to move me past rote recitation into aching yearning of “my God you are my God, eagerly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you…”

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