Fr Jonathan Munn has just written Springing into the English Lent or Lenting into the English Spring?
I don’t think we need to be too hard on the old Pagan feasts, since I often mention the “two Old Testaments” – that of the Jewish people and that of the rest of our ancestors. Both announced, through signs and symbols, the Advent of Jesus Christ and the Universal Church. But I think Fr Jonathan is “up to speed” on this point.
Nature itself is a sign of the Resurrection, which is already present in Lent. In the Use of Sarum, we have the Transfiguration Gospel on Ember Saturday (the Roman rite has it on the second Sunday of Lent). The glory is already there and we are shown what we are preparing for.
Indeed, though I am just over the Channel, in a part of the world that gave us English much of our culture, I miss many of the traces of pre-Reformation Anglicanism. He has some rather beautiful ideas about Lent. If it were meant to be torture, I would suggest as a penance living in a concrete city listening to modern noise and bustle and communicating only by mobile phone, Twitter and Facebook! For me that would be like a stint in Supermax Prison in America! Lent is not about punishment or torture, but about finding the essential by shutting out the maelstrom and the noise.
Lent is about finding God and ourselves through silence – inner silence, the silence of harmony. We do well to spend time in nature, away from towns and modern life. There is also human art and music, and Lent can be a time of honing our finer senses. It’s a most thought-provoking article and another look at this season – which some find interminable! The French say aussi lent que le Carême – as slow as Lent! For me, Lent is a time to treasure and take day by day. There is a Ferial Mass for each day during Lent when there isn’t a nine-lesson feast, and each Epistle and Gospel guide us through the stages of becoming as interior as we are exterior before we come to meditate on the horrors of human evil.
This year, we are invited to commemorate the beginning of World War I and what was effectively the end of World War II in much of Europe. As I have written in other articles, they were humanly the end of our civilisation – and we are either facing the end or a transition to something new. Perhaps this waiting is at the same time an Advent and a Lent. Last night, I watched the film Massacre in Rome, made in 1973 with Richard Burton as SS Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler. There are only two ways to react: deny God and sink into nihilism and despair – or seek to transcend the evil and allow Christ to conquer death. These are the themes we will follow as we reach Passiontide.
Treasure each day of this Lent. It goes too quickly!