Listening in the Stillness of Lent

prayerThere is a great rushing about these days and I, living in the world, rush too, doing and thinking and writing, packing my hours and days and weeks, overscheduling, overpromising. The younger generations twitter not only in tweets, but chitter and chatter like small birds, speaking at such a pace my untrained (elderly) ear cannot absorb the frenzy and I cannot interpret the bites of sound flung so furiously and I often ask for repeats but to no avail, for they too race ahead around another corner and beyond into the future.

When do we rest? When do we pause and reflect? When do we listen in quiet for the still small voice of God?

It has been said that the Christian’s growth is two-fold.  A Christian grows into Christ and at the same time Christ takes residence within the Christian. “He in us and we in Him” we pray in the Mass. We receive Christ in the Eucharist and with each communion we invite Him to take over more of our lives. As He grows within us in this sacramental action and as we pray the prayer he taught us to pray (Our Father…) He begins to pray within us, so that our prayer becomes His, our deepest desire. And so we journey through this passage of time on earth, preparing for eternity.

It is so very good that there are regular times in the Church Year in which we are pulled out of our busy lives. We are called, especially in Lent, to observe a different way of living. Essentially we are called to simplify, to remove habits of misspent time, habits of gluttony, and care-lessness, and dance to a simpler tune, a slower and quieter one, so that our slow steps will ease our hearts. So that we can rest. We are asked to take this gift of found time carved from Lenten discipline and use it to love, to love others in care-taking, to love God in prayer-making.

Sundays are days of rest throughout the year. Our Creator in his infinite wisdom decreed in the beginning that we should rest on the seventh day. For Christians this day moved to Sunday to honor the Resurrection. Sundays became sacred, set apart to worship God in repentance, renewal, and regeneration. They are weekly holy-days for the faithful, healthy-days for body and soul.

Studies have found that religious people in general live longer than others. I believe it must be true, at least for true believers, those who practice their faith, integrate their belief into their lives to become whole, holy. Christians live under a law of love that provides order, an ordering of importance, a prioritizing of concern. Having answers to crucial questions, having a map to follow, decreases our stress. We know that we will not always live up to this law of love. We may ignore the answers to the crucial questions. We may forget we even have a map. We err and we stray like lost sheep, we follow the desires and devices of our own hearts, and there is often no health in us. But we also know that we have a loving Father. We repent, we confess, and we return to His law of love. We recall the answers and we follow the route on the map that has been so clearly laid out for us.

The ability to release to a loving God all of this stress and worry, to let Him bear the burden on His holy wood, is a relief giving birth to joy. And in our joy we return to the cross to happily help Him carry it, walking with Him through Jerusalem and through our own lifetime.

Lent is a time of renewal through re-creation. We retreat and reflect, we repent and are reborn, we render unto God what is God’s. We move out of the fast lane and into the slower one. We prune, cut back, and feed. We watch for new growth, meeting Christ in Sunday worship, praying our Morning and Evening Prayers, calling on the housebound, giving to the poor in need and in spirit, embracing the forgotten and lonely who sit alone in the corner of the room, knowing we are embracing Christ.

All the while, in the silence of Lent, we listen for the still small voice of God. Soon, we know, in the killing and burial of our rushed time we will hear His voice. Soon, we know, we will join our voice with His, and His with ours, to rise once again in glory.

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