wind-rush, feather bright

Today, the sun is shining, the cat is purring, and I’m off to visit the flamingoes.  In the absence of a pancake party, they seem to be the right companions for Mardi Gras.  There is a strange giddiness in the early spring.  All around the world is whispering, ‘hope, dream, dare.’

For many years, it was the solemnity of Lent that I loved — the very challenge of it, as I walked through the cold blustry days of an East Neuk winter, or the unending snow of a New England March.  I was fairly strict with myself then, keeping absolute fasts, carefully planning Lenten disciplines, finding it very hard to go to lectures or teach lessons on Ash Wednesday, never really relaxing till I was in church.

But it feels different now.  Either I have become lazier, or my sense of God has become more gracious.

Discipline is important.  I know how much difference it makes to pray in stable patterns:  early morning silence, daily office, Eucharist. And I know that to do that, other patterns must be stable too:  bed times and rising, meeting times and meals.  The rhythms of the day, the rhythms of the liturgical year — at times, a hassle; at times, lost in busyness or complexity, but ultimately–  a gift given to us for freedom.

When I set out on my jubilee year, it was a claiming of the freedom of the desert.  I was leaving my work behind.  I was leaving my patterns of life behind.  I left knowing — at last knowing — what had long been true:  that we can’t control what people think of us or say of us or make of our stories.  There are lots of times in life when truth and perception fail to meet, and we find ourselves alternately on both sides of that chasm.

I’m learning to live with that.  And that is a form a discipline too.

I want this Lent to be about freedom.  I’m hoping for a warm blustery March that will shake us all of our illusions and leave us laughing in the midst of God’s grace.  And I want that even in — especially in — those parts of our lives where pain remains, where new pains arise, where we cause and are caused harm, despite all our desires to the contrary.

And then, at Easter, I want kites.  Bright shards of joy, riding on the winds.

I should not write when I wake giddy and yearning for flamingoes.  It is sloppy and careless.  A messy Mardi Gras parade.  So be it.  Today is for feathered flurry.  Order and ashes tomorrow.

14 thoughts on “wind-rush, feather bright

  1. I have been pondering, given my upcoming move to monastic life, the many ways my life will change. I believe the greatest shock to the system will be the way in which Lent is lived at OJN compared to Calvary Epis. Church. You see, Calvary celebrates Lent unlike any other church in the country, and on the planet I suppose. Calvary hosts a 5-day a week noontime preaching series that attracts 150-450 per day. Calvary also runs “The Waffle Shop,” a full-serve restaurant (with some of the oddest food you’ve ever seen) in the basement Parish Hall. Waffle Shop see between 200 and 700 per day. Both these fall into a category called, “Gifts to the City.” Proceeds from Waffle Shop are redirected to outreach ministries in the region, the preaching series is free of charge.

    So, as you might imagine, Lent at Calvary is certainly in no way solemn as I understand the concept. In fact, it is almost a celebration. I have always hoped for a solemn Lent, but know that, after 11 1/2 years at Calvary, I have no idea what that means. I wonder, with a little trepidation, what a monastic Lent will be like.

  2. Each year, I await your news that it is Ash Wednesday and you are having waffles. (and chicken pie (pudding??), and … )

    But then, it has always seemed fitting for you since I remember clearly how you eased Sr Sarah and I out of a 24 hour fast by talking about ice cream for 70 miles on the way home from church. (we gave in at mile 60, and enjoyed it as much as you did, as I recall, but it made for a strange Ash Wednesday.)

    I cannot imagine what Lent will be like for you next year, but for some reason I have images of calm white and spacious silence. The 4.45 am starts are surely stringent enough, though? Please tell me chapel doesn’t begin earlier in Lent?

    I am so pleased for what you are doing. It has been a long time in coming and is right. I will miss you desperately when you are off line for a year, but hope that you will then re-engage and be a blessing for us all.

    Returning to what you have written: in your imagining, what would a solemn Lent look like?

  3. It’s Fish pudding and a myriad of desserts with either rum, sherry, or bourbon in them. As far as I know, the daily schedule does not change. At St. Gregory’s, all those years ago, the normal day started at 3:45am.

    A solemn Lent?
    Honestly, I can’t imagine. The hustle and bustle here drown out so much. I suppose it would a time of letting things surface.

  4. I guess that most of the churches I have belonged to encourage some kind of fast being kept – having time last year to fill in between the morning and afternoon service at my city centre church, a friend and I considered very seriously what the heck to do, and decided that while a cappuccino WAS breaking our fast, falling over in a heap was not a good idea, and the coffee shop was warm and comforting. It was a somewhat guilty pleasure. I am not good at absolute fasts, though I have done them. Various churches have been relatively good or bad at solemn Lents, and churches have varied over time. Bluntly I remember bullying clergy into making something like proper provision for churches, with varied degrees of success; well, sometimes bullying, sometimes hoodwinking, but never, ever surrendering. Not you, Kimberly, you never needed anything more than support. And of course the current one is good, and needs nothing from me but my being there to benefit from it all.

    One Ash Wednesday I wrote the first of all my imaginative pieces – Job. It remains a milestone, though I write easier now. It was a good way to spend that day. This Lent, this time, is about recovering balance in my life – earlier bed, better rising, better breakfast, more riding, more praying, back to the Rosary, always (for me) particularly helpful.

    I admit I have never yet experienced a really successful Palm Sunday procession, and I find the Three Hour Service not really my cup of tea. The Maundy Thursday is one I would not miss unless I was actually dying. And yes, it is weird at 11 am, but better than than missed. To miss that service would be a terrible thing.

  5. Oh, I don’t know, Rosemary — while you have may have never experienced a truly successful Palm Sunday liturgy, you have certainly helped lead a rather unusual one. (shh. don’t tell. it will upset the children.)

  6. That was an interesting experience – and I have known readings of the Passion that worked – I remember an especially fine one with Bill Felver as Pilate which brought all sorts of neo-colonialist nuances out – and I remember reading Jesus myself and the finest compliment one could imagine in that my reading of the set words actually upset somebody – imagine that I managed to get my idea of Jesus across like that!

    No it is the wretched procession which never comes off. It is a mistake. We cannot be joyful -we cannot be expectant. We know what happens next.

  7. You may be right — and it is a very hard transition. But I think there is something to be said for a liturgical expression of how our expectations and understandings can turn upsidedown in an instant, and the attempted switch between Hosannah and Passion does that as well as anything could, I suspect.

    It all depends on the music. The music can sometimes carry it.

  8. A group church people, an especially Scottish people, depressed, trying to look like a crowd, trying to ‘Hosanna’ when they are in glum mood – anticipating next year’s ashes – does not look (as one always hopes it might) like a group gearing up for a mood-swing New Orleans funeral.

  9. What a wonderful post.

    I had forgotten about the ice cream. That will send me to sleep with a smile tonight.

    I wonder what Palm Sunday will be like in Haiti. There are certainly plenty of palm branches around here, and they do fabulous processions – but other than that, I have no idea what to expect.

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