Tuesday, February 13, 2018

the feasting must end for the fast to begin...

My life has been guided, shaped and formed by the ebb and flow of the liturgical seasons of the Christian Church. And now that I am no longer an active member of a congregation, that loss resonates profoundly within my soul. This is the first time in over 40 years that I have not had a church home during Lent. Don't get me wrong: I am not lamenting retirement. Not at all. But I am feeling a unique emptiness without sharing the rhythm of the sacraments in community.

Sharing the seasons of feasting and fasting, singing and silence, action and contemplation is a holy gift. I don't need to be in leadership, clearly that era of my life is over; but I do need to be in relationship with other people of faith. So after a morning meeting I will slip into a Roman Catholic Mass. I will listen to the lessons. I will come forward for the imposition of ashes. And I will open my hands and heart for the Eucharist. Ash Wednesday is not something I can do alone. T.S. Eliot wrote:

O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

Lent - or Easter - or Advent, Christmas or Pentecost is not all about me. It is about God's movement among God's people in history. Eliot's poem concludes:

The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labor, which is not pleasant.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
The things that men count for happiness, seeking
The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
With equal face those that bring ignominy,
The applause of all or the love of none.
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.

The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change,
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.

Today we feasted on pancakes slathered in butter and maple syrup. Tomorrow the fast resumes. I am ready.

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