Lent is not a customary observance within the tradition of Christian formation that nurtured me. But I have come to it much in latter years. There is something very powerful about being caught up in the re-enactment of the Christian festivals and fasts that tell our story year after year.
Contrary to the popularised idea of Lent as a time of denial of self-indulgence in one (usually small) simple pleasure, prompting the oft asked question “What are you giving up for Lent”, I am attracted to the idea of “taking something on for Lent.” I notice that other bloggers have also been attracted to this variant and in my view, truer stance. See More Meredith Gould and The Go-Between God. After all, Jesus’ constant refrain throughout this season’s commemorated journey with his confused disciples is “Take up your cross (daily) and follow me.” The invitation is to consider what this metaphorical cross is like. Surely it is the work of allowing God’s Spirit to mould oneself to the way of Christ – the way that gradually replaces self-indulgent me-ism with other-focused compassion. These are the hallmarks of the reign of God that Jesus modeled and taught. It takes focus, and, for many, fasting helps pay such sustained attention.
For me, meditation works best. So it was affirming to hear, during his Perth visit, the leader of the World Christian Meditation Community, Fr Laurence Freeman, encourage us to “take on compassion for Lent.” He also said “practicing kindness” was the best preparation for meditation. So – an outer practice that is other centred to prepare for an inner focus that is self-stripping – not in self-negation but in a way that engages silence, stillness and simplicity in the quest for the reign of God in all that matters.
That’s worth taking on!