For some seekers of the sacred and for many Christians, the season of Lent — the span of time between the arrival of Ash Wednesday and the ensuing 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday (minus, of course, the Sundays during the season, which are regarded as “little Easters”) — is a time of holy disruption, of orientation, disorientation and re‑orientation.
Since Christmas, folks who follow the Christian calendar have been moving through time in a fairly smooth manner. Then comes an instant when they are a bit befuddled and bedazzled, caught in a surreal disturbance of the normal. This happens for a veteran long-timer as well as for the novice, for elders as well as for the young, for adults as well as for children.
Some have described their experiences of Lent as like being unwitting characters in a snow‑globe that’s suddenly shaken up.
For other folks it’s like that moment in a movie theater, when, after settling into your seat with popcorn and soda, after the endless previews, it’s time for the main event. All of a sudden, for the life of you, you can’t recall the title of the movie you’re about to see. In that instant of existential vertigo, you’re virtually adrift. But then you do recall, and you shift your attention into gear, and the space and time of your world begin to make sense.
For other seekers and sojourners Lent is a continuing pageant of great power. Lessons learned in Sunday School about humility and hope are held in symbolic relief as one comes forward during an Ash Wednesday service to receive the imposition of ashes. A Palm Sunday parade inspires participants and onlookers alike. A dramatic reenactment of the Lord’s Supper proffers a wondrous mix of divinity and humanity as Jesus presides over the last meal he would share with his first followers. A recitation of Jesus’ “Seven Last Words from the Cross” creates a solemnity rarely known.
Majesty. Heightened humility. Dramatic portrayals. Theater of the ultimately real. An on‑going pageant of great power.
Whether disruption or pageantry, Lent helps Christians to shape and transform their faith. May the shapings and the transformations lead each and all to a closer walk with God, greater love toward all neighbors, and personal fulfillment unlike any known before.
© 2016, Robert Lee Hill
[From LIFE’S TOO SHORT FOR ANYTHING BUT LOVE (Woodneath Press, 2015)]