Thinking about Lent

Thinking about Lent

Lent starts early this year, in just about three weeks (Ash Wednesday is February 14, St. Valentine’s Day).  This year our parish will offer two special programs to help you to come closer to Christ as we prepare together to celebrate Easter.

First, we’ll have a four-week adult-education series on the Gospel of Mark.  (This is Year B of the three-year liturgical cycle, during which we read from Mark’s Gospel on most Sundays.)  The presenter will be Msgr. Donald Hanson, recently-retired pastor of Most Holy Trinity church in East Hampton.  Fr. Don has had a varied career: from parish service, to a time as assistant chancellor of the diocese, and to several years on the faculty of the American College of the University of Louvain in Belgium.  (He keeps up his facility with Dutch and Flemish, so if you speak one of those languages I’m sure he’d be delighted to chat with you in them.)

The first two sessions will focus on how the Gospels came to be, and how we now study them.  The final two sessions will have more to do with reading the Gospels for spiritual benefit.  The sessions will meet on Monday evenings, 7:30 to 9 P.M., in the Parish Center.  Dates are March 5, 12, 19, and 26.

Fr. Don spoke this past fall in our parish at an evening of renewal for our liturgical ministers and was very well received.  I think you’ll find him personally delightful, and his teaching rewarding and accessible.  If you can manage to be free on those four Monday evenings, his course will, I’m sure, be well-worth the investment of your time.  No registration is necessary, and there’s no fee.  Come to as many sessions as you can, if you can’t make all of them!

The second Lenten opportunity will be an exercise in reading the New Testament in a way that’s very old in the church tradition, but perhaps new to many of you: It’s called lectio divina, or “divine reading.”  For a long time this technique was practiced mostly in monasteries, but for the past forty years or so many lay people have learned it and found it very helpful.  

Lectio Divina is a way to read the Scriptures with both mind and heart – understanding and affection.  It arises from the conviction that God’s Holy Word is (as the Letter to the Hebrews calls it) “living and active” [Hb 4:12].  When we read His Word, God speaks to us – to our minds, to our feelings, and to our imaginations – if we let Him.  This is how it works:

  1. Lectio (Reading): We read a (short) passage of Scripture, aloud, whether we’re alone or with others.  (The act of speaking and hearing the Scriptures is more powerful that simply reading silently, for as St. Paul says, “faith comes through hearing” [Rom 10:17].)  We note what catches our attention or imagination.  We sit silently with that word or phrase.
  2. Meditatio (Meditation): We read the passage aloud and slowly again, trusting that God is saying something to us in and through it.  Again, we sit silently.
  3. Oratio (Prayer): We read it aloud a third time as our response in prayer to what God has offered us.  And again, we take some time in silence.
  4. Contemplatio (Contemplation): We read it, slowly and aloud, a fourth time, simply being still in the presence of God in His Holy Word for as long as seems right.

It’s not too early to start planning for Lent.  Choose something that will bring you closer to Christ by Easter.  One or both of these activities might be just right for you.  Until next week, peace.