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. 

The Glory of These Forty Days

May we join our brothers and sisters throughout time and space in the holy journey of Lent, inspired, perhaps, by this poem composed by our great brother, Gregory:

The glory of these forty days
We celebrate with songs of praise;
For Christ, by Whom all things were made,
Himself has fasted and has prayed.

Alone and fasting Moses saw
The loving God Who gave the law;
And to Elijah, fasting, came
The steeds and chariots of flame.

So Daniel trained his mystic sight,
Delivered from the lions’ might;
And John, the Bridegroom’s friend, became
The herald of Messiah’s Name.

Then grant us, Lord, like them to be
Full oft in fast and prayer with Thee;
Our spirits strengthen with Thy grace,
And give us joy to see Thy face.

O Father, Son, and Spirit blest,
To thee be every prayer addressed,
Who art in threefold Name adored,
From age to age, the only Lord.

– Gregory the Great, 6th Century

Hymnal 1982, number 143; (http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/l/gloryt40.htm)

 

Prayer for Lent

“O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake, grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”

(Rabia al Basri, Sufi mystic)

This Lent, consider the forty-day journey as an experiment in adoration.  Seek not what God can do to or through you; seek God himself.

If you seek God in the wilderness–away from everyday distractions, painkillers, and noise, who might God reveal himself to be this Lent?