It has been a week of finishing up my early draft of The Magdalene Mystery, a story which contemplates truth and lies and love. Now I must choose what to add and what to take away, decisions I shall need help with, as I hone and refine and hope something ends up readable as well as challenging, a tricky task.
We are moving into Lent, and each year as I live these penitential days of the life of the Church I am reminded of my third novel, in which the time span is a Lent-Easter one, Inheritance. As we drove to church today I thought of my characters and what they were doing on this day in London… Victoria escaping, Madeleine and Jack visiting Saint Mary’s Bourne Street Church, Cristoforo preaching in the wet countryside. Each character has become part of me, as I am, to be sure, a part of them, and they give my life a lovely contour and extended family.
I’ve been thinking as well what my Lenten rule shall be, what I shall give up, and what I shall take on. Psalm 139 is a given, one to return to, as well as the Lenten Collect, a prayer said in the daily offices during this time of preparing for Easter. I shall return to the first fourteen verses of John which I tackled in Advent, for their beauty still haunts me, and I am grateful for the lingering. I must choose another memory passage, and I’m thinking perhaps John 6 where Christ talks about the Eucharist. I shallalso try to give up meats and sweets, always a challenge. In this way I shall discipline my will so that I shall learn to love as God loves. I shall be in training.
Our parish is reading The Way of a Pilgrim, a story of a Russian wanderer and the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner,” is sometimes prayed without ceasing, as Saint Paul tells us to do. I find it on my lips and in my heart often during the day, not, I must admit, without ceasing. But it is a lovely way to remain close to God minute to minute, hour to hour, or in moments of suffering, heartache, disappointment. Someone once asked why this prayer doesn’t pray for others instead of oneself. The answer was that the “me,” through love, becomes “we”. I liked that, and when I pray it now, I incorporate all mankind, especially the Body of Christ, in the “me,” through love.
Love. Ah, that difficult word. That glorious word. Today’s Epistle was the poetic and joyous passage, I Corinthians 13, Paul’s great hymn to love, or “charity,” caritas. His definition of love is not popular today: love is suffering, kind, humble, meek, unselfish, patient, true, bearing, believing, unfailing, and greater even than faith and hope.
And the Gospel for today was the healing of the blind man. He knew Jesus could heal him, and because of his faith, Christ heals him. He can see. Because he believed.
So as we approach Lent we are called to love, to suffer, to be true to the truth. In doing so, we also will be granted our sight. We shall be healed. We shall journey on to the time when we shall no longer “see through a glass darkly” but “face to face” with the God who is the source of all love, life, and truth.