Quotations of the Day:

IMG_0631papal namesakes being not-indifferent to each other…

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

-John Chrysostom

“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”

-Pope Francis

 

An Alcohol Free Lent: A Season of Repentance and Reflection

Join Canon Robert Hendrickson, and me, this Lent.

A Desert Father

To this point I have refrained from public comment on the tragic death of a cyclist who died because of the brokenness of an Episcopal bishop in Maryland. There has been much comment on the culpability of the bishop, the diocese, and the discernment committee who put her name forward despite previous troubles with alcohol.

bible There has also been much written on the need for both justice and mercy in cases such as this. There has also been a good deal of emotion in debates about what it means for us to welcome into leadership those who continue to struggle with issues of addiction.

On Facebook today, a friend sent along an idea that I thought both sensible and spiritually valuable. He wrote the following:

“Like everyone in the Episcopal Church, I’ve been torn, dumbfounded, and mortified by the events of Maryland: what it says about the episcopacy and church…

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Why Frippery? Why veils:

From the earliest years of Christian worship, the faithful have covered religious symbols—whether crosses, statuary, or paintings, from the Fifth Sunday of Lent through Good Friday.  It used to be on the Sunday before Palm Sunday that the church would hear read the entire passion narrative, and so from that point during the liturgical year, through the end of Holy Week, crosses especially, but any symbol of God’s revelation to humanity, would be covered with a veil to remind us of the veil which was torn in two, according to Matthew, at the moment that Jesus died.  Now, we cover the crosses throughout Lent here at Trinity, and other Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic parishes observe a similar tradition; there isn’t a set rule about exactly how far in advance such items should be veiled, though Ash Wednesday, when we cover up the crosses, is the earliest appropriate moment.
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The veil which was torn in two was the huge cloth curtain that divided the Holy of Holies in the Temple from the rest of the temple’s sacred space.  In the Temple of Jesus’ time, there were three parts—the temple courts where anyone could walk around (this is where the money-changers were, who Jesus threw out), the Holy Place where only ritually-pure Jewish men could go, and the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies where the Temple priests would dare to go only once a year to offer sacrifice on the altar.  This is where we get the altar rail—that is a symbol of where it used to be that no one could cross, or even see very well, what was beyond.  Because of Jesus’ willing sacrifice of himself on the cross for our own sins and waywardness,  veil—the separation, physically and spiritually—of God from humanity, no longer exists.

A Strange Thing Happened at Trinity Cathedral

A poem inspired by several independent experiences of Ash Wednesday at Trinity this year, shared with me over the course of the week:

As we prepped for Lent, we were all very clever,
We had last dinners out in spite of the weather.

We emptied our houses of sweets and libations,
Dashing to the grocery store for kale and healthful rations.

Wednesday dawned, and we traipsed to church in the rains,
Our challenging food-fasts at the top of our brains.

We knelt in our pews, and the Holy Spirit hovered:
we heard, “Not food—it’s your heart I want covered.”

Look inside—what is it that’s holding you back?
Is it worry that makes you think you’re in lack?

Or maybe it’s anxiety that eats you up;
or achievement that runs over your cup.

Whatever the vice that puts up a wall
between you and your Lord, between you and us all—

God wants to take it away;
so loosen your grasp,
ask him when you pray.

As we sojourn through a Holy Lent,
Remember it’s not garments that’re rent—

It’s our hearts which need loving, honest evaluation;
For God living in us, it’s the best preparation.

Why We Fast

A friend told me yesterday that she didn’t quite understand why we fast; this year, she said, it made her grumpier than usual.  Usually, it makes me grumpy, too. 

Why do we get married?  Why do we go to church?  Why do we keep changing our baby’s diapers?

It’s not because we want to, or because it’s particularly edifying, or because it’s glamorous.

We do these strange, nonsensical things because they take us out of our comfort zones, they make us better people, and sometimes, we notice God better when we do them (not always, by any means, but they provide an opportunity).

Lent is about making room for God (I said the same thing about Advent and Epiphany; how about this: LIFE is about making room for God).  By changing things up in our lives–removing some of our habitual painkillers, and adding a bit of silence or space–we make things uncomfortable enough to notice where God might be around us.