Thursday, February 26, 2009

the season of "bright sadness"

yesterday was ash wednesday on the western church's calendar and marked the beginning of the season of lent. having come from traditions that didn't mark the calendar beyond christmas and easter, my wife and i have over the last five years had desire to make meaning and tradition around such rhythms. lent is often referred to as "spring time of the soul" but this year i connect more with the orthodox way of describing it as the season of "bright sadness." this phrase holds the tensions well of what it means to name death and have hope. of what it means for me to be struggling with depression a profound sense of disconnect with my heart while at the same time to be expecting the birth of our 3rd child and the conclusion of what has felt like an eternal masters degree program- both occurring shortly after easter this year.
the 40 days is evocative of israel's time wandering in the desert. more directly it is a practice in reference to Christ's period of fasting and temptation in the desert. if anything is to be said about deserts- and ask any desert fathers or mothers you know- is that they are the beginning place for spiritual formation and direction. it was a place for israel and Christ himself to bring into practice a full dependence on the Father.
in efforts to return to moderation, i've given up coffee, sugar and music amongst other things over the years. the presence of desire is supposed to be re-directed to focus on God. what i love is that grace is built into the lenten rhythm- the sundays don't count in the 40 days, and are to be celebrated as mini-easters, feast days where fasts can be broken- they are pauses or windows in time. (if you intend to fast somehow, meredith, a friend and former classmate who now pastors on the east coast, recently wrote this brief and helpful article on fasting, full of good reminders.)
i rarely blog this many words, but all this to say that this year, in a way that feels more true that other years, i can say that i need what lent offers- and i hope to enter it in community with a degree of intentionality my life has been laking of late. how will you mark lent this year? how will you anticipate, remember and live into the narrative of holy week?

1 comment:

T. Nathaniel said...

Sarah and I went to Vespers last night and a hymn was sung with the following words: "The springtime of fasting is upon us. The blossom of repentance is starting to open."

The first day of Lent for Orthodox is Monday, but already this week we have been fasting from meat. After Sunday, all Orthodox will be fasting from meat, fish, and dairy. We are somewhat tense but also very excited as we approach this time of preparation. On Lazarus Saturday, which is the day before Palm Sunday, we will enter the Orthodox Church by chrismation. "The blossom of repentance is beginning to open."