“To every thing there is a season…” (Ecclesiastes: 3:1)
“To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” (Ecclesiastes: 3:1)
We are coming into Spring, in the garden there are a few brave daffodils flowering in the shelter of larger plants. Trees are beginning to bud and we can see green shoots everywhere. The nights become lighter, the darkness of winter is fading, and everything around us is a sign of hope. As the poet Christina Rosetti says: “There is no time like Spring, When life’s alive in everything,” We are surrounded by new life, crocus, snowdrops, daffodils, baby lambs in the fields. Gerard Manley Hopkins said “What is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning In Eden Garden.”
Into this season of hope and promise comes Lent. Does this seem odd? The word Lent itself comes from from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning “Spring,” and lenctentid, which literally means not only “Springtide” but also was the word for “March,” the month in which the majority of Lent falls. So, if Lent means Spring does this help us to understand? Well, I suppose it depends how you see Lent and what it means.
So often our understanding of Lent is based on the idea that it is about us and what we do, so that we can get to the end and pat ourselves on the back for: giving up chocolate, saying an extra rosary, going to an extra mass, giving extra money to charity. Then we can sit back and say “haven’t I done well”.
Meister Eckhart writing on true penance said “Many people think that they are achieving great things in external works such as fasting, going barefoot, and other such practices which are called penances. But true penance, consists in turning fully and completely towards our beloved God in an unshakeable love.” This love does not start with us, as the writer of the first epistle of John says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son” (1John 4:10.)
Pope Francis in his Lenten message for 2021 called Lent “A Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love”. Perhaps the most difficult thing for us to believe is that we are truly loved just as we are: to believe that we are actually part of God’s wonderful plan and that we are precious. The more we are able to recognize the presence of God in ourselves and in the whole universe, a presence of loving creation, the more we can live in hope. This is not a hope based on platitudes but a hope based on the certain belief in our loving creator.
When we recognize more fully God’s love for us then we see our brothers and sisters as the beloved of God as well, as Pope Francis said “Only a gaze transformed by charity can enable the dignity of others to be recognized and, as a consequence, the poor to be acknowledged and valued in their dignity, respected in their identity and culture, and thus truly integrated into society” (Fratelli Tutti, 187).
When we see Lent as as journey to see mor4e of the Lover who first loved us, then it is a springtime in our lives, a time of growth and blossom which affects those around us. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said: “Christianity does not ask us to live in the shadow of the cross, but in the fire of its creative action.” May this Lent be a time of Joy and new life for each one of us.
Maureen Bowsley. (President , UK Lay Members)