The tradition of Lent means many different things to many different people. I honour the traditions and wisdom of the ages—and I’m interested in discerning what these practices mean [today].
At [my church], Lent is about learning from Jesus, particularly Jesus’ path through the real-life wilderness experiences we all face. We are interested in emulating and discovering a Jesus-shaped life in the hard things, the growing things, and the uncomfortable things. We believe not in an idealized plane of existence no one can quite attain; instead we believe in knowing and living out a Jesus way in the grey areas, the dirt and dust of our earthly lives here and now. . . .
Together and for you, this is our prayer (by Ann Siddall): “May this Lenten journey, with its stories about the hard places of Jesus’ experience, give strength and courage to all whose journey is far from easy. And may it inspire us to risk Christ’s Way of love as we share the journey with other travelers. We make this prayer in his name. Amen.”
—Rielly McLaren, pastor, Windsor Mennonite Fellowship, Windsor, Ontario [source]
>> “Ash Wednesday and the Practice of Truth-Telling” by Christine Valters Paintner: In this introduction to the season of Lent, spiritual writer and retreat leader Christine Valters Paintner discusses lament as a Lenten practice—lament as truth-telling, resistance, solidarity, and the release of God’s power. We need to touch those places of grief that we carry, and open ourselves in compassion to the grief of others. Paintner also unpacks the word “repentance,” visiting its Hebrew and Greek root words to further illuminate its meaning.
>> “Forty for 40: A Literary Reader for Lent” by Nick Ripatrazone: Nick Ripatrazone, the culture editor for Image journal and columnist at The Millions, offers suggestions and blurbs for forty stories, poems, essays, and books appropriate for Lent. Some pieces are inspired by feast days and Gospel readings, while others capture the discernment of the season. From Flaubert’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony and Hemingway’s one-act play Today Is Friday to Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters and Karr’s “Disgraceland,” the selections are varied and intriguing. The dates are off because this was published in 2017, but the list is still valid, and many of the poems can be read online.
LIVING ROOM EVENT: “Poetry of Lent”: On March 4, under the aegis of the local arts nonprofit the Eliot Society, I’m moderating an evening of crowdsourced Lenten poetry at a friend’s home in Crownsville, Maryland. If you’re in the Baltimore-Washington metro area, I’d love to see you there! The themes of this season are so expansive, and I’m looking forward to hearing what people share. Of course, I will have many poems in my back pocket as well. Some words I’ve been thinking of in preparation: pilgrimage; hunger; emptying; grace; greening; solitude; beloved; blood.
>> “Circles” by Tow’rs: Tow’rs, an indie-folk band out of Flagstaff, Arizona, is made up of Gretta and Kyle Miller, drummer Dan Bagle, guitarist Kyle Keller, and cellist Emma Riebe. This song of theirs is about how God lovingly pursues us and clothes our shame.
>> “Parce Domini” by Jacob Obrecht: The Gesualdo Six perform a motet by the Flemish composer Jacob Obrecht (1457/58–1505), which sets a traditional Latin liturgical text based on Joel 2:17, 13.
Parce Domine, parce populo tuo quia pius es et misericors. Exaudi nos in aeternum, Domine.
Spare, O Lord, spare thy people, for Thou art gracious and merciful. Hear us for ever, O Lord.
VISUAL COMMENTARY: “Handling Our Fragility, Seeking a Wise Heart” by Rachel Muers: As part of the Visual Commentary on Scripture project, theologian Rachel Muers has selected and comments on three artworks that resonate with Psalm 90 [previously], a song that combines communal lament with a meditation on wisdom. The psalm ends with the cry “Prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands!”—which guided Muer in her curation. She gives us nine-thousand-year-old handprints on an Argentinian cave wall, a hospital drawing by Barbara Hepworth, and a cat’s-cradle sculpture by Mitzi Cunliffe. This mini-exhibition is a great way to enter into and engage with this typically Lenten psalm.
On a related note: For this Lent, the VCS is dipping into its archives to bring you “Lent Stations: Repentance and Forgiveness,” fourteen artworks with commentary (two per week) that relate to the stated theme. Follow the link to sign up.