The life of a monastic ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of our own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 1:6). In other words, let each one deny herself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.
Everyone should, however, make known to the prioress what she intends to do, since it ought to be done with her prayer and approval. Whatever is undertaken without the permission of the prioress will be reckoned as presumption and vainglory, not deserving a reward. Therefore, everything must be done with her approval.
Rule of Benedict: 49, The Observance of Lent
Today we begin the 40-day journey toward Holy Week and Easter. Chapel is ready, and we received our ashes this morning.
I realize that this year will be a special Lent for me as a novice. I will have fewer distractions getting in the way of making my journey. I read this quote about/from Br. John Mark Falkenhein, OSB that gave some good perspective on novitiate and the real purpose of Lent.
So, in his mid-30s, he came to Saint Meinrad to become a monk. Although his novitiate year was admittedly difficult at times as he adjusted to his new way of life, Br. John Mark says he has never been happier. "I have felt so terribly free, because I had really renounced all the things that were important to me. It's not that they were bad, but I just had to let go and trust, deciding to act without knowing, believe without seeing. Eventually, I discovered that doesn't mean rejecting things like friends and relationships, and a career, but giving up control of them.
Yes, Lent isn't necessarily about saying "no" to everything that life offers, but rather about examining our relationship with life, how tightly or gently we grasp different parts of it, and what we value in it, which we can do by letting go of some of the things we consider normalcy in our lives - sounds a bit like novitiate, doesn't it? Joan Chittister also provides an insight in her book on the Liturgical Year:
Each succeeding year, Lent calls each of us to renew our ongoing commitment to the implications of the Resurrection in our lives, here and now. But that demands both the healing of the soul and the honing of the soul, both penance and faith, both a purging of what is superfluous in our lives and the heightening, the intensifying, of what is meaningful.
So, how will I enter into this Lent in a way that allows me to immerse in the truth of my Joy? Will I be able to acknowledge and let go of those parts of my life that are not life-giving? Life-giving or not, can I practice holding everything gently? Where am I called to Resurrection this year?
The journey awaits...
Let us walk in the holy presence.