Easter is the earliest it can be this year. And so, as soon as Candlemas was over, Ash Wednesday arrived….
And Lent is upon us, bringing the usual question: “what are you giving up for Lent this year?”
I have done my share of giving things up for Lent, some more successfully than others.
There was the year I gave up butter, eggs & milk. And my husband nobly said he would do the same. All there is to be said is never again!
And the year we gave up tea & coffee – and suffered migraine-like headaches & cramps for the first two weeks.
In recent years, I have stopped giving things up & have instead taken something on….
One year, I committed to reading the Bible – all of it. That didn’t quite work out.
More successfully, I agreed to do several hours gardening each week at a local retreat house. They benefitted from tidy borders & I found spending several hours in their lovely peaceful garden most conducive to quiet meditation.
Last year, to the great amusement of my non-church friends, I gave up church for Lent…
It started as a bit of a joke but the idea had a strange attraction. I did go to one or two services, when I was the altar server, and Palm Sunday & the Chrism Mass – but for the rest, I stayed home & spent time in prayer.
I found it a remarkably liberating experience. And, on pondering why that should be, I have decided that I do not care much for Lent.
I do not at all mind having seasons where reflection, quietness, amendment of life & waiting are prominent. Indeed one cannot celebrate all the time…
But I do not like the emphasis that the church seems to place on sin & guilt & shame. I do not like being told that I am “a miserable offender” & “not worthy to be called a child of God”.
I do not like the dirgy hymns or the sombre atmosphere; the bare church or that preoccupation with sin.
So much so that this year I am giving up….well, Lent actually…
At least, I am not keeping it in the church’s way.
It is right that we should remember our Lord’s journey to the cross. But we know the end and new beginning of the story…and so, we can follow in his footsteps knowing that we are indeed children of God, that we have been saved by his blood, that we are forgiven and loved – and we can celebrate that (but quietly, deeply & reflectively).
And that is what I will be doing over the next few weeks, spending time alone & silently, but not miserably….