Let me be honest: I am not really much of a one for the church calendar. I guess I wasn’t brought up with it. Having said that, there are certain moments that I find quite powerful. The first is advent which reminds me so much of the invitation for the formation of the Christ consciousness in us all. Easter and Pentecost I find very powerful too. Maybe I’ll explain why another time. My thoughts at the moment though are towards Ash Wednesday and Lent. I connect this time on the church calendar with the spiritual practice of “letting go” sometimes referred to as “kenosis”.
Lent provides us with an important opportunity to remember, to call to mind, to witness and observe some of the many things that have been both a pleasure and pain in the preceding months. These may be things that have preoccupied us in the direction of joy or sadness. They may be things that we continue to struggle with.
On Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, we have the opportunity to humble ourselves in conscious readiness for recreation. Part of the possibility of recreation (renewal, fresh possibilities – however you want to refer to it) is through an act of letting go (kenosis). Not too soon, not too quickly, we need to remember (re-member) these things, to feel them fully before we let them go.
Here in Liverpool at St Bride’s on Wednesday evening next we will create such an opportunity in the Ash Wednesday service. You are most welcome!
Here is my paraphrase of that episode in the life of Jesus when in deep preparation for his work ahead he felt led by the Spirit to the desert. This episode gives rise to the Lenten experience. Perhaps it was something like this:
After his baptism in the Jordan Jesus was continuously experiencing a sense of God’s Presence. He felt drawn to spend time in the desert and this turned out to be about 40 days during which time he hardly ate. This was a time of great soul searching for him; you could say he was wrestling with his demons, the deepest most instinctual urges within the human ego. These were some of his thoughts:
It seems I’ve been chosen by God, his presence seems so real, perhaps I could even turn these stones into bread. The he remembered – “people can’t live by bread alone”.
Looking down from a mountain he imagined he could see the whole world. He thought to himself “if only all of this was mine, it could be mine, I could control it all”. The he remembered, the greatest good is done when we align ourselves with God, the loving creative energy of the universe.
Then in his imagination he saw the temple in Jerusalem, the focal point of Jewish life and culture. “Perhaps if I went to the temple, I could leap from the highest point. Surely if God really loves me the angels would protect me and I would never have any doubts again and everyone would know how important I am.” But then he remembered, “don’t be so foolish as to put God to the test”.
This was a difficult time, going deeply into all these thoughts but as he let go of each one he came to a place of peace and clarity.