While I know that Ash Wednesday officially begins Lent, it seems like it really begins with the first Sunday. There are so many tangible (and deliberate) liturgical signs that, at least at St. J's a person would really have to not be paying attention to know that something is up here. The beautiful brass candlesticks that grace front and back altars are gone, replaced by somber wooden and brass candle holders on the table only. This year we have small purple votives on the back altar that will be extinguished one by one as part of our opening Lenten reflection each week. There are no flowers on the altar and of course, all of the paraments are somber purple. The choir wears red robes with no cottas. We have a ceramic chalice and plate instead of the shiny silver. We use Rite One for liturgy. This is the "old service" and the language reflects a much more penitent sensibility. The alleluias of course are gone from the hymns and, at least this week, even the hymnody was solemn. Our organist even had a bit of a grouse about that, and one of the choir members was heard to quip that "if we are singing like this all through Lent, that should be enough penance, I won't have to give anything else up!" Yes, it is Lent, and we are surrounded by the reminders in a myriad of sensory ways that cause us to pay attention. This is a good thing even if not always comfortable. I have kind of a mixed relationship with the Rite One liturgy. There is part of me that loves the connection to the past, to the sheer oldness of it and the connection to all of the people who have prayed this liturgy through all of the ages of time, and I have to say to the beauty of some of the language. On the other hand, there are parts of it that make me kind of theologically squirmy. But perhaps that is not a bad thing. Thinking about not being worthy to collect the crumbs under God's table (from the communion prayer)....on the one hand, that takes me to a place of weird subservience that trips all kinds of triggers. But on the other hand...well...there is some profound truth here, and it is only by grace, is it not????
My own efforts at Lent bumble on. I will not say that I am necessarily succeeding at worrying any less. I am more aware of how much I do it, so perhaps that's a start. One of my worries continues to be L. I haven't heard back from him yet and he was not in church. I didn't expect to see him, as he's now twenty miles away, and other than contacting me to get the names of the congregants who live in his town for a ride, I don't know how he would get to church. It's very hard not to go charging into the night to try to save him from himself. It's very hard not to feel that I failed to do just that in the first place. But I try to remember what I told myself from the very beginning with L. He is God's and in God's hands, and I need to trust that and trust God with him.
I guess that would not be a bad thought in general...because it all is, we all are...in God's hands. I remember that and then forget it again, or I trust it and then I don't. Perhaps one thing that I might want from this Lent is longer intervals of remembering and trust. That would be a good thing I think. Good for the joy and peace quotient.
So my first full week of Lent begins. How's it going for you?