Lent is a time of watering. A time of feeding and preparation. A time of being watered and being fed.
The days are lengthening, the root of the term Lent, and as the sun travels in a greater arc, giving us more light in our day, we travel toward Easter, the source of all light.
Here in Northern California we have been blessed by an abundance, or so it seems, of rain on our green hills. The land drinks, soaking the waters from the skies to create new growth, new green. We too pause during this time of absorbing the meaning of God come among us, the meaning of our human condition, the meaning of our individual lives. We pray and we fast, training and disciplining our bodies and our wills to lead truer lives. Perhaps we watch less TV, engage in less Internet chat. We consider what is important and what is not. We absorb the words of God in our prayer life and our Sunday worship. We seek His will. We drink it all in like water in the desert, this time of nourishment. We feast on this abundance of love found in the Church in this most penitential and holy season.
A new book was recently released about clouds, the many kinds, the many names, each bundle of moisture traveling at its own altitude, each having its own, if ever-changing, shape. There is even a Cloud Appreciation Society, and I gather that they search for and identify clouds as birdwatchers do birds. I recall many childhood summers, stretched out on the grass, looking up at the clouds, finding animal and people shapes, which soon moved into other fabulous creations as the wind carried them off. I share with C.S. Lewis a love of “weather,” but would probably add, as long as I can be protected from its force. Still, clouds are lovely.
The clouds today spun through the sky, opening and drenching us as we ran into church, then moved on to another landscape. Soon the sun burned through the moist and freshened air, and the garden courtyard blinded us as we emerged from Saint Peter’s this morning. Such drama. Such a world of contrast, color, beauty. Such a world of feeding and nourishing.
But nature hurts and maims as well. We grieve for those affected by earthquakes and tsunamis, and we question why such things happen. We are reminded that we are not in control of such simple things as weather. And this reminder too is a part of Lent. We move through our days thinking we are, but we simply aren’t. This is the reality of our world.
And so in Lent we become humble, knowing there will be times of great suffering and sorrow, times of flooding or drought, times that reflect the changing shapes in the heavens. Yet we know there is more than this randomness, we know that there is a greater order, a greater plan, and best of all, we know it is a plan of Love. We move toward Easter, aware of our neediness, our hunger, our thirst, knowing we will be comforted, fed, and our thirst will be quenched. The days lengthen, the storms pass over, and one day we find ourselves helping the children flower a large white Easter cross.
Soon, soon, the day of resurrection will come, and the land will blossom. We too, rising from our ashen selves, from our feeding and watering, will rise like the phoenix. We have this promise, as Christians, and we are glad.