This has been another tumultuous week in America with all that is going on in D.C. and around the world. All hearts and hands are needed on deck as we move from Epiphany into Lent, the next season of the liturgical year in the Christian tradition.
Lent begins this Wednesday, February 17th and runs through April 1st before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. It is a season of spiritual discipline often seen as a time of repentance, self-examination, fasting, and prayer but can quickly move into rote behaviors of giving things up without a connection to the real aim of this season. Maybe we can begin to reconnect with these disciplines as alchemical processes that allow us to walk Jesus’ path of kenosis (self-emptying) and conscious love.
These significant 40-46 days (depending on whether you include Sundays) can be a time of preparation and re-grounding in the central message of Jesus culminated in his journey of the cross. It can remind us that walking out Jesus’ path is full of paradox - there is profound abundance and freedom and at the same time it is not necessarily safe. It costs us something, not a cost based on guilt or duty but out of a responsibility to participate in the dynamic relationship of an unfolding universe.
Perhaps we can refresh meaning and fullness in this Lenten pilgrimage accompanying Jesus as we enter with a heart surrendered.
Let’s begin with the practice of repentance which in Greek translates as metanoia. In her book The Wisdom Jesus, Cynthia Bourgeault says, “The word literally breaks down into meta and noia, which, depending on how you translate meta (it can be either the preposition “beyond” or the adjective “large”), means “go beyond the mind” or “go into the larger mind.” She goes on to say, “It means to escape from the orbit of the egoic operating system, which by virtue of its own internal hardwiring is always going to see the world in terms of polarized opposites, and move instead into that nondual knowingness of the heart which can see and live from the perspective of wholeness. This is the central message of Jesus. This is what his Kingdom of Heaven is all about. ‘Let’s get into the larger mind,’ he says. ‘This is what it looks like. This is how you do it. Here, I’ll help you . . .”
The practice of repentance by itself would be profound collective work right now and can inform our call toself-examination, fasting, and prayer. Through self-examinationone can observe one's self and notice when caught up in the egoic operating system alone and begin to open to the wider field of God’s Heart, found in the depth of one’s own heart, that can see from Wholeness. Through fasting or letting go of something one can be reminded of the kenosis and self-giving of Jesus. Through prayer one can participate in the Heart of God in silence, gratitude, listening to the cries of God through humanity and the longings of our own hearts, and centering prayer to name but a few forms. And centering prayer is in and of itself a practice of repentance as we sit and surrender over and over again with each return to the sacred word.
During Lent these practices can help us to continue to look to the example of Jesus. Cynthia goes on to say: “Thus he came and thus he went, giving himself fully into life and death, losing himself, squandering himself, ‘gambling away every gift God bestows.’ It was not love stored up but love utterly poured out that opened the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Over and over, Jesus lays this path before us. There is nothing to be renounced or resisted. Everything can be embraced, but the catch is to cling to nothing. You let it go. You go through life like a knife goes through a done cake, picking up nothing, clinging to nothing, sticking to nothing. And grounded in that fundamental chastity of your being, you can then throw yourself out, pour yourself out, being able to give it all back, even giving back life itself. That’s the kenotic path in a nutshell. Very, very simple. It only costs everything.”
What is your aim for this Lenten journey? How are you being called forth into deeper relationship with God’s Heart, the Heart of our hearts, and to Wholeness? What practices will support your aim? What scriptures, sacred texts, and poetry might you want to reflect on? What art, beauty, and small ordinary joys of life can keep you connected to your heart and open to transfiguration along the kenotic path of conscious love?
The veil remains thin and we are invited to be receptive to the potentialities of this time, the spiritual influences always present in Lent, the support scattered from generations and multitudes of those who’ve gone before us and those who come ahead. Together we can hold one another in intention. Collectively, even a small group of people creating the conditions for coherence may impact the spiritual state of our planet. These practices allow us to be conductors of the real virtues needed to offer this time of planetary struggle and unsettlement.
If you would like to mark the entrance into Lent, you can join us this week through Stillpoint for an Ash Wednesday Contemplative Liturgy, February 17th from 6-7pm.
We are anchoring and tethering.
We are surrendering and trusting.
We are connecting and inter-abiding.
We are freeing and widening.
We are sensing the invincibility of our hearts.
Here are most of the readings from the ‘collective contemplative pauses’ this week:
There is a flowing spring
of lethal awakening
These waters are clear
I've been pointing there, friend.
That's the hard part.
Now you must do the easy work
of turning, following the sound,
the subtle, wild and joyful murmur
from deeper in your body
than your soul.
Now take the motionless
green journey of a spiraling seed
into the death of its flower.
You can only feel sorry for those
who wander out above themselves,
who search the sky
for some other world
when the light they seek is
already gushing from their cells.
If you become so silent
that even your name disappears,
you will hear the music
of this river inside.
Ah, that bitter word again, "inside."
Friend, there's nothing to be inside of!
This is our little secret,
but it can never be hidden.
You are made of the very space
you travel and yearn through
to find yourself.
Galaxies cluster and dissolve
in each atom.
What bubbles up and pours
is your stillness.
Now drink, and become fierce.
— Alfred K Lamotte
“Sacred time is time governed by the rhythms of creation, rhythms that incorporate times of rest as essential to our own unfolding. Sacred time is being present to the moments of eternity available to us at any time we choose to pause and breathe.
In sacred time, we step out of the madness of our lives and choose to reflect, to linger, to savor, to slow down. We gain new perspective here. We have all had those moments of time outside of time, when we felt like we were touching eternity, bathed in a different kind of rhythm. Touching eternity brings a cohesion to our lives and reminds us of the goodness and surplus of living because it honors the rhythms of the soul.”
— Christine Valters Paintner
“The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil: a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hewed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for ‘Lord, have mercy,’ are ‘Kyrie, eleison’ that is to say, ‘Lord, sooth me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.’ Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice of acquittal a very Western interpretation but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and [God’s] compassion for [God’s] suffering children! It is in this sense that we pray ‘Lord, have mercy,’ with great frequency throughout the Divine Liturgy.”
— Fr. Anthony M Coniaris
“In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair."
"Love is the whole thing. We are only pieces."
"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage."
— Lao Tzu
"Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get–only with what you are expecting to give–which is everything."
— Katharine Hepburn
"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
— William Shakespeare
"Love does not dominate; it cultivates."
— Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
"Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time."
— Maya Angelou
"Nobody has ever measured, even poets, how much a heart can hold."
— Zelda Fitzgerald
"Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place."
— Zora Neale Hurston
"Where there is love there is life."
— Mahatma Gandhi
“To practice meditation as an act of religious faith is to open ourselves to the endlessly reassuring realization that our very being and the very being of everyone and everything around us is the generosity of God. For God is creating us in the present moment, loving us into being, such that our very presence in the present moment is the manifested presence of God. We meditate that we might awaken to this unitive mystery, not just in meditation, but in every moment of our lives.”
— James Finley