Lent


What, really, constitutes a meaningful fast?

I’ve been thinking about that question as Lent approached – it seems useful to have an answer before Lent arrives …  Or maybe just to arrive at an answer during Lent …

When I was growing up, I remember, I was encouraged to give up desserts, or to watch less TV, or not to eat meat one day a week.  And as I grew older, I became less certain how meaningful any of these acts are.  At least on the level at which I practiced them, they were pretty trivial (and non life changing) disciplines. (more…)

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A lot of the daily office readings from the Hebrew Scriptures for Lent are from Jeremiah.  He began his work as a prophet during the reign of the reforming king, Josiah, and in these Dueteronomic reforms, the cult was to be centered in the Jerusalem Temple and justice was to be done for the widows, the orphans and the oppressed.  At first Jeremiah supported these reforms.  But over time, it came to be about a kind of cultic legalism, a personal purity, and concerns for justice for those in need fell away. (more…)

It’s not new, but Brother Adam posted for a 4th time on Simplicity.  He comments early in his article like this:

One further preliminary thought about ascetic practices leading to better focus. I was wondering why I was reluctant to write more, apart from general busy-ness, and yesterday it came to me. Focus on what? Focus for what? Whose focus?

If the focus is mine, or on something that comes from me, then what I will achieve in that kind of focus is to narrow my attention down to something that is going to be of my choosing, and will reflect me. But that is precisely what I do not want, as a monk, as a person striving for simplicity so that God may be more present to me and I more present to God. An ascetic discipline which increases intensity of focus on my life, my hopes, my desires, my past experiences, my whatevers, is going to narrow me and draw me deeper into myself, into a place which may not in the end be productive.

If you are interested in the whole article, you can find it here.

So here are my newsletter thoughts for February:

One of the blogs I follow (Midlife Bat Mitzvah) is written by Ilana DeBare and is (largely) an account of her preparation for her Bat Mitzvah.  In her most recent entry (“Let the Chanting Begin”) she talks about her preparation with her cantor.  The cantor had her do a dry run on some of the chants.  And afterwards, she commented, “That’s pretty good.”

 Ilana responded that she wanted to know these prayers well enough that if she were shipwrecked on a desert island, she could lead the service on her own.  The cantor nodded and seemed amused.  Ilana admits, however, that what she really had in mind had to do with concentration camps, and “those stories of random anybody Jews leading a Passover or a Shabbat service in the bleak, dehumanizing barracks of an Auschwitz.” (more…)

I loved Brian Baker’s little Lent/Easter meditation that accompanied Trinity Cathedral’s Easter Appeal:

I do not know if it is exactly accurate for me to say I “enjoy” Lent.  I appreciate and need Lent.  It is an important time for introspection.  Lent invites me to re-focus my time, my priorities – my life.  I feel like we, in the United States, have been experiencing a communal Lent.  Faced with the economic crisis and general anxiety about the state of our world, many of us are stepping away from unconscious shopping and are rethinking our priorities.  There are also many of us who are facing personal financial loss. (more…)

Brother Adam has posted again! It’s his Ash Wednesday reflection for his community.  At one point he says:

In a way, then, Lent calls us to be “normal” — to remember our nature, that we are part of the earth and not lords of it, to remember our contingency and how close we are to death when we are in life. Such remembering also gives us a strong sense of the value of simple things, of nourishing food, of an unexpected kindness, of the usefulness of practical skills that can prolong our lives if we find ourselves shut out of what we had before and wandering without knowing what is next. It might give us a little more respect for the poor of our own time, whose survival skills might be worth studying. The current urgency may call forth skills we did not know we need.

Anyway, if you want to see more, click here.

Dean Brian Baker at Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento has linked to an excellent piece on using the daily offices by Derek Olsen.  You can see it here.