Wednesday, March 5, 2014

...And Now it is Lent

   Ash Wednesday is now upon us, indeed almost over.  This year, the lead-in to Lent has been a strange one--rather halting--due to the snow storms and delays associated with them.  Nonetheless, the need for Lent has been growing ever stronger in my mind.  I would guess that the busyness of the last year have stretched out the days, for it has never seemed so long since Lent last was.  Observing the liturgical season of Septuigesima certainly benefited me, for the readings, the vestments, the tone of the liturgy (cough, cough, revised missal of Paul VI...) all pointed to the upcoming season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

   For prayer, I plan to just be more consistent in what I try to do.  Really, that's about it.  If I did that well, it would be a Lent well spent.  Obviously, a holy hour here or there would help, but as I have to keep reminding myself: it's not about the amount, but the consistency and care.  Quality vs quantity is an over-used trope in this instance.  Real prayer is about the habit, not the practices.  I say 'practices', for I, at least, tend to focus on the practices, the iterations of prayer.  Many fail to look at inculcating a habit of prayer, a practice of prayer; and real quality of prayer must be based on the habit.  Surely, practices are important, and repetitions, and enumerations.  At least what we do, doing it again and again, and numerically increasing it are all considerations we must have.  Ultimately, however, a lot of the prayer angle is personal, and depends on the personality and situation of each person.  It would seem that certain fundamentals should really be covered, but the how is not as important.  The Eucharist should be at the center, and Our Lady as a guide to Him in that form.  The liturgy should be a real emphasis, and prayer as a habit must derive from it and return to it, as the highest action of man, as individual and community.  Scripture should be involved as the key unlocking the door to Christ, while a good commentator or commentary is like a keychain.  Spiritual reading should have a role, as one's mind should ponder the realities of God's existence and providence, as well as their real interaction in human affairs via the person of Christ.  Taken together, these lead to a unified habit of prayer, where we can quickly turn our thoughts towards our eternal home and He who awaits us there.  If one could aggregate these parts into a whole, with the contemplation of the one God as the result, then would one have learned to pray.  If one can learn to take the daily goings-on and relate them, in the moment, to eternity, and easily see the Cause of causes in all our thoughts and doings (without making it a mining excursion to find them), then one would have gained the habit of prayer.  Of course, the question then is: how to do this.  For that, I'd better leave you to the Saints.


About the image:  The Weeders by Jules Breton, which I have listed here, often reminds me of Lent, as there seems to be a pause in the midst of work, or at least a call, as Lent is for us in the midst of the labor of our lives. I also thought of Jean-François Millet's Angelus, but this seemed to show more of what I meant by Lent being a call in the midst of labor.   

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