This year I am excited to begin reading a new book that I found as a resource recommended by Father Richard Rohr from his daily email reflections that I receive. The book is called "God For Us; Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter (2014)," edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe. The book is a compilation of writings for each week of the Lenten season and offers rich historical information about each of the feasts and fasts of Lent, written by several leading faith thinkers and writers; Ronald Rolheiser OMI, Beth Bevis, Richard Rohr OFM, Lauren F. Winner, Scott Cairns, James Schaap, Luci Shaw and Kathleen Norris.
One of the two editors, Greg Pennoyer, offers lovely thoughts in the preface of the book: "If Advent/Christmas is a revelation of God's presence with us, then Lent-Easter is a revelation of God's desire to use all of life for our wholeness and our healing - the revelation that he will pull life from death (p. xi)." Pennoyer goes on to suggest that "Lent cleanses the palate so that we can taste life more fully. It clears the lens so that we can see what we routinely miss within our circumstances. Lent and Easter reveal the God who is for us in all of life - for our liberation, for our healing, for our wholeness. Lent and Easter remind us that even in death there can be found resurrection (p.x)." What an encouragement and important reminder this is. Perhaps a visual exercise would be to have a dirty lens or a dirty piece of glass and have students try to read something or describe a picture while looking through the dirty lens.
It seems common within the Church and in popular culture to over-emphasize the idea that Lent is a time to refrain from or to 'give up' certain pleasures; however, a more traditional understanding reminds us that Lent, or lente in Latin, means slowly. In this way, Lent invites us to slow down and to take stock of ourselves and our lives in order to ready ourselves for the coming of the feast of Easter. It is a time to lovingly and gently clean the lens that we are looking through in order to see more clearly the things that we would otherwise take for granted or avoid; to look more deeply into ourselves in our longing to have deeper intimacy with God.
Poet and writer, Luci Shaw, says it beautifully in her poem entitled "The Sighting":
"Out of the shame of spittle,
the scratch of dirt,
he made an anointing.
Oh, it was an agony - the gravel
in the eye, the rude slime, the brittle
clay caked on the soft eyelid.
But with the hurt
light came leaping, in the shock & shine
abstracts took flesh & flew;
winged words like view & space,
shape & shade & green & sky,
bird & horizon & sun
turned real in a man's eye.
Thus was truth given a face
& dark dispelled, & healing done (p.124)."
Student Activity - 'Lent In A Bag' Supplies:
- Lunch sized paper bags
- Small Ziploc bags of a small bit of sand
- Small stones
- Wooden clothes pins
- Small candles (such as tea lights)
Create one 'Lent in a bag' for each student. For each bag, fill a lunch sized paper bag with a small Ziploc bag of a bit of sand, a small stone, a wooden clothes pin, a small candle and a print out of the 'blurb' below which explains each item. Use the questions connected with the explanations to engage students in dialogue.
The sand is a reminder of Jesus' wilderness experience when he was tested for 40 days in the desert. The desert can be a place where we feel a kind of dryness in our spiritual journey or we may be facing difficult circumstances in life. What constitutes wilderness in your life? What have you learned there? Is there an area of dryness in your life right now that needs refreshing? How might you seek refreshment?
The stone is a reminder of the bumps in the road that we come across in life and in our spiritual journey. It also serves as a challenge to us in how we will choose to respond to those difficulties. Might there be a stony place in you that needs transforming? Is there some habit that you've formed that you want to see changed? Is there a way to use your difficulties as an encouragement for others?
As Jesus became human in the incarnation, he demonstrated a profound act of love to meet us literally where we are, in human flesh. This act of love can also point to the fact that God believes in us and has created us to do great things. As Saint Therese of Lisieux said: "Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them." In God's deep love for us, we are continually invited into relationship with God and into participating in the work of God throughout the world, even in seemingly small ways. As you engage in this Lenten season, what might you plan to be intentional about over these 40 days to move you closer into being a reflection of the Christ who lives in and through you?
Lent begins in the dimness of late winter and ends with the burst of bright spring. In John's gospel, Jesus says: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (8:12)." What an encouragement Jesus offers us. Further to this, we are reminded in the book of Isaiah to "walk in the light of the Lord (2:5)." So, where do you shine? How do you keep your light lit? In what ways do you want your light to shine a bit brighter or to encourage someone else's light to shine a bit brighter this Lenten season?
Powerful Lenten Video Resources Online
A 2 min, 9 sec contemplative video by Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Publishing (www.osv.com).
A 1 min, 15 sec upbeat video by Brian Flanagan.
Melissa Page Nichols
King's University College