I was reminded of the paradoxes and surprises inherent in the themes which we will contemplate this Lent, when I came across this passage from a CAFOD Lent book, I read some years ago.
Light Breaks forth The CAFOD Lent book 2012 DLT
“We live by dying. We increase by letting go. We achieve greatness by humbling ourselves. And, most dramatically of all, at the Easter climax to Lent a shameful humiliation and execution becomes the story of triumph and glory.”
These are universal themes which strike at the very heart of our human journey both personal and corporate. How we respond to these themes will affect not only ourselves but our neighbours and our world. Take time this Lent, give yourself some space for quiet, for prayer, reading and contemplation. The liturgies of this season are designed to help you, and I encourage you to join us on Sundays, including on Sunday evenings at 6pm for a short service of Stations of the Cross.
Lent of course begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday. We have two services of imposition of ashes at 9.30am and at 8pm. “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”. This phrase is not to paralyse us with a sense of insecurity at our own mortality, it is to liberate us from all that is unnecessary, the general fripperies which crowd our lives and relationships. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be given unto you”.
This next Sunday 5 March at 6pm we welcome Margo Jales ‘In Conversation’. Margo will share with us her faith journey. This will be an evening of hope and joy and yes perhaps a few tears, but above all it will be life affirming.
May we all learn to live well this Lent.
On Monday of this week the Church commemorated George Herbert, priest and poet, who died of consumption in 1633 at the young age of 39. He is remembered for the poetry and hymns he wrote, including the much loved ‘Teach me my God and King’ and ‘King of Glory, King of Peace’ that we still sing today.
For those who enjoy singing hymns, there is a marvellous opportunity to sing for some 30 hours non-stop later this week. St Michael & All Angels’ Church, Bedford Park, is holding a Hymnathon, starting at mid-day on Friday, and ending sometime around teatime on Saturday. They will be singing the entire New English Hymnal from start to finish, all 542 hymns, with the one voted most popular being sung again as a grand finale. Everyone is welcome to drop in and leave whenever they like, but be warned, it can become very addictive! Refreshments will be available to sustain singers throughout the event.
With every blessing
Last Sunday Fr Simon preached on the question of where we find purpose and security in our lives. “I will never forget you,” we heard from Isaiah before being told by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount not to worry about tomorrow, for that will take care of itself. That is a very challenging message for us today, because of course we like to feel we are in control of our lives.
I have just finished reading a novel called The Old King in his Exile by an Austrian called Arno Geiger (published by Restless Books). It’s describes how the author’s father spent his last years suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Over the course of the book the relationship between father and son undergoes a major and very moving transformation. As the disease progresses, the family have all the difficulties you would expect in coping with the shattering effect on their own lives as well as that of their father. Of the four siblings, Arno the writer is the one who seems to eventually form a much closer relationship with him. Ultimately August moves into a care home. The process of decline is painful, but Arno manages to see in his father someone who still retains his dignity and sense of humour, even though he is utterly unable to care for himself or understand most of what is going on around him. Towards the end he writes “You can’t expect much in the care home: minor kindnesses, smiling faces, cats prowling around, a joke that comes off. I like the fact that the people who live here have been liberated from the obsession our society has with achieving things.”
Our society is obsessed by the idea that what matters in life is self-fulfilment, the ability to pursue what we want when we want. We measure our success by the price of our house or the school we send our children to, convinced that we have what we have because of our own efforts. The love that Arno discovers for a father who is in the last stages of a terrible disease revolves around what might be regarded as trivial moments that have nothing to do with striving and succeeding. But they have everything to do with what it means to be human. So maybe we all need to find a way to be more like the lilles of the field and simply enjoy what is here for a day (or a moment) and then gone. We could do worse than start with the snowdrops in the churchyard.