Saturday, March 5, 2011

Easing Into Lent - A Lifetime Journey

My friend Karen mentioned that she worships in a tradition in which Lent is not observed.  Her remark got me thinking about when and how I've encountered Lent.

In my childhood, almost devoid of religious content?  I suppose not.

In the Catholic boarding school I attended in grades 7-9?  It was most likely a big deal, wasn't it? But to me, it would have meant more layers of tedious Latin ritual, more possibilities for required chapel attendance, more opportunities for creatively disappearing from sight without jeopardizing  attendance records.  Truthfully, I don't remember a thing about it.

I don't think it was a feature in my Protestant boarding school life either.

When my husband and I began attending a Methodist church in our late 20s, Lent became a part of the year for us.  It meant community in the form of weekly dinners and programs; it meant thematic seven-week sermon series; it meant the introduction of new music.

In my Presbyterian life, the liturgical year has gained radically in significance to me.  Our preachers, for the most part, follow the lectionary; the paraments and stoles change colors with the seasons; and during Lent the Ash Wednesday and Tenebrae services are solemn and ethereal and, in the original sense of the word, awesome.

My life since my son died has been held together in part by the repetitious sequence of the church year (I think I'll write more about that later), marked by the disjunctions splattered about by grief.  But still.  Even though I no longer comprehend the words "ordinary time," I've been grateful for the anchor of the seasons.

Image: Lenten Textiles by Mary Ann Breisch, here


  1. Robin, I was raised in the Catholic faith. When I think back to my childhood, what stands most prominent in my memory is hating that the house stunk of fish on the Fridays during Lent. We had to "give up something we really liked", so it was the test of wills to see if we could make it all the way to Easter Sunday without cheating. That's about it. Not much depth here!

    Flash forward to the present day, and unfortunately, due in part to Erin's death and my great disappointment in the priests from our church concerning their lack of response and support, I'm a person of faith, yet one without a connection to any formal worship.

    I miss many parts of it - structure, guidance, ritual - and like you, "ordinary time" has become a skewed term for me. I've been working to find ground in so many areas of my life since Erin has died, and I just don't know where I fit in many circumstances.

    looking for a new anchor

    ps - Thank you for taking the time to add your wisdom to my post. Your words have helped to both educate and give a sense of peace to some of my readers.

  2. Mary, I have about come to the conclusion that most of what made up our former lives no longer works, at least not as we expected it to. Church, it seems, is good for good times, and good for the big upheavals -- the immediate aftermath, the funeral, the meals and errands in the first weeks -- but the long term is up to us.

  3. You must look into Orthodoxy.

    Just attend a service once during Lent. I think you'd find what you're driving at here.

    I'm sorry about your loss.

  4. Discourse, can you be more specific? Thanks!