Meditation Monday – Ready For Lent?

by Christine Sine

by Christine Sine

Lent begins next week with Ash Wednesday on February 14th, and I almost missed it. Preparing properly for it at least.

Last week I was interviewed for a podcast about Lent. I was asked why I practice it, how I plan to practice it and what I hope to learn from it. As I gave my answers I felt like a bit of a hypocrite because I realized how little I had thought about this important season of reflection, introspection and realignment. Launching my podcast The Liturgical Rebels has distracted me so much that everything else is on the back burner.

This needs to change I thought, and my spirit responded with a resounding Amen and an admonition:  “Get ready. Find your way.”

I call myself a contemplative activist and a liturgical rebel descriptors that really seem to come into focus as I start to think about Lent. Most people think of Lent as a time to give up something like chocolate or TV  but for me it is about letting go of distractions that keep me from the path God intends me to tread, a path that is meant to draw me closer to God, to neighbours and to God’s good creation. It is also a time to grab hold of new commitments to actions that will transform my life and the lives of others, as they bring glimpses of God’s eternal world into being.. In other words this is a time to love God with all our hearts and souls and minds and love our neighbours as ourselves.

Getting ready for the season doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t mean picking up the first devotional that catches my attention and going about the rest of life as usual. Lent requires lots of intentional preparation and commitment.

So how do I set about preparing? Here are the steps I plan to follow.

Find a Focus

A focus that pulls together your spiritual practice, reading and even the arrangement of your sacred space during Lent is something I find extremely helpful. This year, because Lent starts on Valentines Day, and ends just before April Fools Day, I have chosen the theme “For love of the world God did foolish things”. I used this several years ago and found it to be a very helpful way to look at the purpose of Lent and my involvement in it.

Rearrange My Sacred Space.

The graphic above is my emblem for Lent this year. I found a lovely big rock that I will sketch it on to form the centerpiece for my Lenten contemplative garden which I hope to complete this week. Then I will forage through my plants and memorabilia to decide what else to add.  The creation of such a garden is a contemplative exercise in itself and always helps prepare me for the season which lies ahead. I explain the process of creating a garden like this in my book Digging Deeper: The Art of Contemplative Gardening . I will also replace some of my candles that represent my circle of light, with crosses which seem like a more appropriate symbol for Lent. Objects that meaningfully draw us into the season ahead are powerful reminders of what we sense God wants to accomplish in our lives. Setting up my sacred space like this takes a lot of time and a lot of discernment, but it is well worth it in the end.

Choose Contemplative Practices.

At our Mustard Seed House community meeting next week we will make finger labyrinths. I love finger labyrinths as a contemplative tool. each time we use them is like taking a mini pilgrimage. They help us focus as we “walk the path” and keep us centered in what matters. If you choose a theme for Lent, repeating it as you begin your circuit of the labyrinth is a great way to improve your focus. The practice often brings clarity for issues I am struggling with. Evidently it is particularly powerful if one walks the labyrinth with one’s non dominant hand. I will use it at the beginning of Lent to help me plan in more detail for the season. I also plan to pull out my Lenten prayer cards and choose one each week as a specific focus.

One of my favourite things to do at the beginning of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, is not only to attend an Ash Wednesday service, but to also to burn the crosses and palms from last year’s Palm Sunday procession. In the last few years, as Lilly Lewin and I describe in our virtual retreat Finding Beauty in the Ashes of Lent, I use these ashes to create something beautiful, a word, a painting or even incorporating the ashes in my sand to make the labyrinth with.

Choose Your Reading Carefully

As most of you know I am an avid reader and already have a pile of books that will provide me with food for thought during Lent. Cole Arthur Riley’s Black Liturgies; Margaret Silf’s Sacred Spaces: Stations on a Celtic Way and Diana Butler Bass’s Freeing Jesus are currently on the top of the pile, but I know that as I walk through Lent it is possible that other books will rise to the surface. I don’t tend to use a traditional devotional during Lent, partly because I want to remain open to the spirit guiding me into new possibilities. Maintaining this kind of flexibility means that I need to remain alert to what is happening around and inside me, another exercise I find productive during Lent.

If you are looking for something simple to engage in during this season you might like to use our booklet “Hungering for Life” a free Godspacelight resource with creative exercises for each week of Lent. Or even simpler our 40 daily ideas for Lent with a suggestion for each of the 40 days of Lent. Make sure you check out the other resources available for the season too.

What Actions Will You Take?

Lent is about preparing ourselves for the life of God’s eternal world, a world in which there is no more pain or suffering or destruction. It is a time to commit to actions that will bring glimpses of God’s shalom world into being. Is there an organization that works with the poor, the unjustly treated or the disabled you would like to volunteer with during Lent?  Could you help clean up the environment in your neighbourhood, maybe commit to at least one day a week car free? Or is this the time to start gardening?

As you can see Lent takes a lot of preparation, and it takes a lot of resolve to continue walking the path for 40 days (45 really as Sundays are not considered part of Lent and so the season actual spans 45 days.

So join the Liturgical Rebels this year. Step outside the box and do something more than giving up chocolate or reading a short devotional each morning.

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What do you long for as you look towards Easter?

How can we create Beauty from the ashes of the past? 

How do we enter into God’s Lenten story that prepares us for the death and resurrection of Easter? 

The Lenten season is meant to be a time for reflection, retreat and refocusing in preparation for our celebration of Easter. Yet most of us find it hard to take time out of our busy schedules for this much needed reorientation time. 

Join Christine Sine at the Lenten retreat: Beauty from Ashes for a morning of scripture reading and quiet reflection that will be for many of us a much needed oasis of quiet in the midst of our chaotic lives. 

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