March Journal, Second Sunday in Lent

There is something about a cold clear day, washed with a night’s rain rattling the drainpipes in the roof, that speaks of winter facing spring. Today was such a day, as the clouds parted for our journey into Berkeley to St. Joseph’s Collegiate Chapel for Lent 2. We entered the space, still cold from the night, but feeling the heater pumping up through the side vents. Soon it was warm, and amidst swirling incense and sacred words, we gathered together to ask the Lord’s blessing upon us, as we travel to Easter and Resurrection Day. We few, happy few as it were, rode the melodies of the morning, confessing, chanting, celebrating, and receiving the Real Presence one more Sunday on this good Earth.

Our good preacher reminded us (as he does each year) that we must consider our Lenten Rule, what to add, what to give up. I often fall back on the welcome advice given by the British Anglican mystic, Evelyn Underhill, who said the true Rule is to face and inhabit God’s will in our lives. Fortified with this thought, along with our good preacher, I decided to memorize another prayer from our poetic 1928 Book of Common Prayer. But what am I giving up? My own desires as I face God’s will in my life. Also, I give up minutes and hours to add the prayer to my memory. But what prayer?

I had already returned to my yearly Lenten Collect, saying it daily, reinforcing a former Lenten prayer rule:

“ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP 124)

Then I considered my life and the last year and all those who have gone before me into Eternity. There was Shelley, Scott, Beth, and John. And others… I cannot recall, but it seems like so many. There were little deaths too, little losses, where hope seemed unredeemed, where truth was difficult to face. And yet there were moments resurrected, moments of grace, where wounds were healed, sight restored, paths once unknown now known.

There would be more friends and family making the great journey in the year to come. What better prayer than the prayer, “For a Sick Person.” It seems dauntingly long, but I’m going to give it a try. It might prove useful one day, when I am at a loss for words in the face of loved ones leaving me:

“O FATHER of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need; We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and relieve thy sick servant [N.] for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort him with a sense of thy goodness; preserve him from the temptations of the enemy; and give him patience under his affliction. In thy good time, restore him to health, and enable him to lead the residue of his life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”  (BCP 45)

I placed an e-copy of the prayerbook in my Kindle for easy access. For, as the Collect for today reminds us, we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. This is also a good prayer to memorize, and much shorter (!):

“ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP 127)

And so, as we prayed the prayers and sang the songs and listened to our Cantor’s amber voice sanctify the moments, the organ holding time in each note, soaring over and around us and up to the clerestory windows – as all these graces danced within and among us, weaving us together, we were healed, made whole, holy, for another week in Earth time, until Lent 3.

It is a curious thing about Earth time, temporal time, our time. It feeds somehow on Eternity. It grows in the midst of the heavens declaring the glory of God. It takes on a beauty that is indescribable, like a golden ball on a Christmas tree. Hence we have poetry, music, and not least of all, love, the three beauties given us as we dance on our journey of grace, three graces leading to faith, hope, and charity, the Holy Spirit weaving among us and within us, brightening our lives, beckoning us to Easter morning.

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