Monday, February 25

Linten Meditations

The following is a CG-ified excerpt from an e-mail prompted by my dear friend, Tim W, calling and e-mailing me to ask for an explanation of Lent to gain a general understanding of its importance to the fellowship worldwide and historically.

As an evan. Episc. from birth, it was a very unusual time of year because in one sense, we didn't want to echo the "Cath. thing" of giving up meat--though that goes way back to the earlier centuries but rarely eating meat seemed like a pointless and unlikely helpful fast--but we also did not just entirely deny it's existence like the average Book fellowship where people say, "Lent, you mean like that stuff in my belly button?" So, a catch 22 but I guess members of the fellowship of England have always sort of been in the middle, eh? So, what was an Evan. Episc. to do? Well, being only 16 or so when she began to search out the meaning of Lent (a time when she had started to become active in that college ministry of Bill Bright at UNM), she recognized the beauty of the changing altar clothes, the different vestments her Dad wore, snickered with the best of them as the liturgy changed from "Therefore let us keep the feast, [word you shouldn't say in Lent beginning "A" ending in "uia"]" to the Lenten appropriate liturgy sans "[that word]" and a few people missed the memo, knew it was a time of readings about the sufferings of the Son and of His people. However, never was into giving anything up as that seemed mere Cath. superstition (and her CC friends generously echoed that conclusion:] ). I am sure that my parents sometimes gave things up for Lent and knew that it was a more somber season; maybe they thought we wouldn't entirely understand or trusted our sacramental heritage and personal relationships with the Father to discover the art of the fast later in life.

So, the sacramental nature of Lent. Oh, what I missed in assuming that people gave things up to the King out of obligation or empty ritual! So, later in life, sometime in college, I remember a very distinct conversation with my friend, Anna, about Lent and about observing things and why different people did these things. I remember one of her reasons was as a cleansing ritual. That giving up and fasting and supplication/thanks were all part of cleansing as in the old Jewish cleansing rites. I thought that was a cool idea. Others say it is out of mourning and along those lines out of sharing in the Anointed One's sufferings (this follows the idea of Him being tempted in the wilderness, alone for 40 days and then eventually to His death). For others, it is merely sacrifice mirroring the sacrifice of the Son, a sort of "you gave Your life, the least I can do is give up something for Lent to show my gratitude" sort of view. I think that my view has morphed into different combos of the above and follows different themes depending on what the Father has for me to learn in that Lenten season.

2 years ago, I took a "class" with Mario B. entitled, "Growing in Virtue"... that was a hallmark Lent for me. I don't necessarily say this as though giving things up were easier or that I felt holier once it was over. I'm not sure Father always works that way. However, I do know that now I often open myself up in a way in Lent that I don't during other seasons (at least in theory that is what happens). As the Father was about certain works in His Son's life-preparing Him for His work and indeed preparing Him for death and even for being made Alive again- in the wilderness so too, I think He is in the business of doing that in our lives. Well, I think He does that all the time but as in taking the Body/Blood or in Dunking/Sprinkling, we believe that it is time to pause and really receive that grace. So, maybe Lent, too, is a means of grace.

In the class, Mario talked about many of these things. The point of the class was to go through a different virtue each week (for 7 weeks, I think). During the week, the "assignment" was to practice them by either disciplines of deprivation or engagement. The idea that a "fast" or discipline could be about actively doing something rather than simply stepping away from others was a very interesting one for me. The virtues were ones like love, hope, faith, justice, prudence, etc...all very intriguing...spiritual virtues. Often by focusing on a spiritual virtue and its practice, the other more "fleshly" problems work themselves out. And, you know, I really did find that to be true! What a beautiful way that Father works in our lives. You also find that in pursuing these virtues and praying that they would be graced to you anew, that you are far worse at those than in any area where you fail physically or mentally (you know, the usual sins: sexual, overeating, material issues, etc). So, the Creator works those things out in Lent, too. I think that it was the fact of it being this season that greatly aided my understanding and engagement with this class and pursuance of the Father to gut those things out of me that were not of Him, either by my participation or denial of certain behaviors, etc. I'm not sure if this makes sense. But, it re-emphasized the importance of Lent for me.

This year, I decided to both engage and deprive myself and am calling this "my body" Lent. Part of this is that once again, the H S has pointed out to me my wrongness in neglecting my body and in being outside of hope for my body. So, by treating my body as a neighbor and creation of the Father as it is, I am also praying the H S's healing on my heart for those places where I am still hateful of what I see in the mirror. And I know He is at work even as He was in the Son during His 40 days in the wilderness, preparing me for good works, my own rising to Life again, a strong walk with Him now and for the benefit of the Fellowship and those outside of it.

So, I don't know if that helped, I hope it made sense. I'm open to questions. A chapter that I love right now (about fasting!) and has been characteristic of "where the good way is" for me at this time is the 58th part of that book beginning with I. Read it!

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