It’s cherry blossom time in Washington DC, and as blooms sprout everywhere I’m reminded how Lent is like the blossoms. Lent just happens.
No longer do we need search for something to “give up”. Lent is, and it draws us into more conscious Christian behavior.
As Lent goes along, from week to week, from one stone soup supper to another, life offers endless possibilities to honor this church season. We hear of an old friend with a terrible debilitating disease. So every day this person takes his place in prayer-on-the move. He’s there in our work, our travel, our quiet moments.
Instead of scolding a spouse for unintentional household errors: “Why did you run the dish washer when it’s only half full?”, the discipline of silence is embraced. And more—the virtue of the spouse in trying to help is recognized and appreciated. Kind words to telephone “merchants” (while still refusing to buy) is, one finds, the adult version of giving up candy.
The Ignatian practice of daily gratitude for the people, the places, the books, the music—the emergence of springtime yet again—has the effect of chipping away at our egos. Isn’t that what Lenten observances have always sought to accomplish? So if we simply notice life this Lent, enter into it as fully and consciously as possible, take seriously the call to be contemplatives in action, then Easter will surely be strewn with flowers as the poet George Herbert promised. “Yet though my flowers be late, they say/ A heart can never come too late/Teach it to sing they praise this day/ and then this day my life shall date.”