All posts tagged: Lent

The Love of the Hound of Heaven

One morning sometime in the middle of August about ten years ago, I lay awake on an uncomfortable bed in my bedroom, which was tucked above the stairs in the Cottage, one of the volunteer houses at Red Cloud Indian School where I was preparing to start my second year of teaching. I hadn’t been able to sleep the previous night, so at about 4am, I decided to watch the sun rise over the ancient hills of Pine Ridge. Throwing on a sweatshirt, I plodded past the elementary school playground, past the green dinosaur, and up a hill to the cemetery. My feet were damp with dew and dust as I took a seat in the far corner of the cemetery, next to Chief Red Cloud’s grave. There I watched the sun come up over Manderson Hill and a full moon set over the buttes out toward Chadron Road. For a single suspended moment they faced each other, as though speaking the strange, secret language of the dawn, an earnestly joyful exchange of light. For …

Dying to Christ

“In that day, says the LORD, courage shall fail both king and princes; the priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD, surely thou hast utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, `It shall be well with you’; whereas the sword has reached their very life.” My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Disaster follows hard on disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment. How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? “For my people are foolish, they know me not; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but how to do good they know not.” I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I …

Editorial Musings: Can We Get Lent Wrong?

And pray to God to have mercy upon us And pray that I may forget These matters that with myself I too much discuss Too much explain Because I do not hope to turn again Let these words answer For what is done, not to be done again May the judgement not be too heavy upon us Because these wings are no longer wings to fly But merely vans to beat the air The air which is now thoroughly small and dry Smaller and dryer than the will Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still. Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Pray for us now and at the hour of our death (T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday I). The season of mercy has arrived. And with the coming of Holy Lent, the public proclamations exhorting us to penitential practice. This week, Church Life features a series of posts on how to take up this posture of penance in the Christian life. Katherine Infantine, a graduate …

5 Lenten Practices that Aren’t Giving Up Chocolate

With Ash Wednesday now come and gone, Catholics everywhere embark on their journey of Lenten disciplines. Lenten penitence can quickly begin to feel rote. While there is still great spiritual benefit in denying ourselves dessert or Netflix, sometimes we seek a more thoughtful or creative immersion into the three great practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes our imaginations need a jolt from the routine to help our bodies and soul enter into the Lenten spirit of preparation. Liturgically, baptized Christians undertake Lenten disciplines in preparation for the renewal of baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil. Christians enter Lent in order to re-enter our sacramental participation in the Paschal Mystery of salvation. Ideally, Lenten disciplines will baptize our imaginations, allowing us to approach the world with fresh eyes and refreshed charity. For anyone seeking different ways to practice Lent this year, here are five ideas that may provide a new approach to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 1. Forgo music. Several friends have practiced variations on this theme. If you have a morning commute (by car, …

Blessed Basil Moreau and Keeping Lent

1) What does the spirituality of Bl. Basil Moreau offer for the Christian looking to keep Lent? The spirituality of Basil Moreau offers a bold, vivid, and practical program for the renewal and reordering of one’s life on the journey of discipleship. The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, like the Christian life itself, are ultimately aimed at re-integrating and renewing our memory, intellect, and will in conformity with Jesus Christ. The Spiritual Exercises offer us a plan for such renewal. Like the Exercises of St. Ignatius, they are a sort of itinerary of conversion. Basil encourages the exercitant (the one making the exercises) to “put off the old self” and to “put on the new self” of Christ. The centerpiece of Basil’s spirituality is this conformity to Christ, and conformity to his Paschal Mystery in particular: a project that begins in baptism and ends only in resurrection (Gawrych & Grove, eds., Basil Moreau: Essential Writings: 45). Christianity, for Moreau, is nothing more and nothing less than Christ’s life reproduced in each Christian. Thus …

Advent Eschatology

Oh I’d be waiting with quiet fasting, Anticipating A joy more lasting. —Madeleine L’Engle, “The Birth of Wonder” Advent—like Lent—is a liturgical period when we mark time according to what is still hidden. The Easter Hope is shrouded in sin and suffering, it has not yet broken open the world in Resurrection; the Christmas Hope of Christ’s glory is shrouded in the womb of the Virgin, it has not yet breached into the waking world of man. But Advent—unlike Lent—is not a season of penitential sorrow. Rather, Advent is a period of deep anticipation of the lasting joy that is coming into the world. To keep Advent is not to pretend, in a facile suspension of belief, that Christ has not been incarnated, that his great Nativity never occurred. Rather, to keep Advent is to walk in liturgical solidarity with all humanity’s forebears who lived in the pre-Incarnation world and to commemorate their anticipation of a Savior. As we walk with them along their journey of anticipation, we sense that we ourselves are a people …

Sacrificial Love: A Gift of Pleasing Fragrance

Brothers and sisters: Be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ. Be imitators of God as his dear children. Follow the way of love, even as Christ loved you. He gave himself for us as an offering to God, a gift of pleasing fragrance. (Eph 4:32—5:2) I say the words of this opening line at least once a day to my children—Brothers and sisters: be kind to one another. I have a freshman in high school and a fourth grader and a third grader. Two boys and the youngest is a girl. Brothers and sisters: be kind to one another. Anyone else have siblings? I myself have two sisters and I remember my mom, exasperated after hours of refereeing bouts, just throwing up her hands and saying, “I don’t care what you do to one another. Just don’t kill each other.” This whole reading has a benign, parental ring to it that is easy to dismiss. Paul trips along with pleasantries: imitate God as dear children; …

Lenten Tuppence

During Lent, we tend to hear an increased emphasis on three pillars of Christian practice:  prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  This particular reflection will be about the third pillar, almsgiving, along with some pertinent advice from Mary Poppins, who teaches the Banks family about the value of charity. We often think about almsgiving in the sense of giving money to the poor.  Almsgiving most definitely includes that, but here’s my additional “two cents”:  we should also think of almsgiving as time spent with other people, especially those people who are disadvantaged and not just in the sense of being monetarily impoverished.  Poverty comes in many forms, and it is not always alleviated by giving money.  There are people around us every day, including ourselves, who experience different forms of poverty – material poverty, emotional poverty, and spiritual poverty.  There are people who are hungry and thirsty and in need of shelter – both in the physical sense and otherwise.  Some are lonely and hunger for friendship.  Some experience stress and thirst for peace of mind.  Some …

Learning to Say Help

My toddler son has no problem asking for help. He wants up in a seat, “Help!” He is having a problem manipulating an IPad, “Help!” He wants a snack, “Help!” Today, he sang a song entirely consisting of the word, “Help!” This kind of radical openness to one’s neediness, one’s incompleteness, one’s dependency upon God is at the heart of the Gospel. Christianity is learning to say thank you, to see the entirety of our lives as gifts. Perhaps, this language of “Help” might actually enable us to understand something about Lent too. Lent is not about success. It is not about becoming the best version of ourselves. It is not developing self-control that will enable us to be successful in other areas of life. Rather, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving is the way that we Christians give up on the project of self-creation, self-control, self-improvement. It’s the way that we cry out to God through embodied practice that we need help. We fast as a way of recognizing the original gift of the created order; …

A Sinner Among Sinners

Israel understands itself as a nation existing only through God’s extraordinary mercy. Blotted out from the earth because of their sins against the poor, their wars carried out for the sake of prosperity, and their political alliances that led to idolatry, God nonetheless restores them from captivity in Babylon. The God who led Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea acts once again: “Remember not the events of the past,/the things of long ago consider not;/See, I am doing something new!” (Is 44:18–19). The dryness of the desert will now become a place of water, sustaining Israel as they come back from exile. The psalmist notes that Israel must never forget the surprising mercy of God: “When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,/we were like men dreaming./Then our mouth was filled with laughter,/and our tongue with rejoicing” (Ps 126:1–2). Those who could not sing a song of Zion in a foreign land (cf. Ps 137:3–4) now stand in the rebuilt Temple, singing a hymn of praise to God. It is this merciful …