This month I want to share a little about Lent. Over the last two pilgrim articles I have shared a little of what is nourishing me in hopes that some might benefit as well. This month I have been thinking about how to prepare for Easter and Lent seems a natural opportunity to help set my mind, body, and spirit, on the lifechanging power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. I assume everyone’s experience with Lent is different. I didn’t practice Lent at all as a youth, which I believe had to do with being raised in the churches of Christ, that keep rituals to a minimum. While I still enjoy the simplistic experience of worship within my faith tradition, I have made a lot more room in my life for rituals. A ritual can be described as the mediation of God’s grace through concrete, external faith practices. The practice of Lent draws Christians out of the busyness of life and reorients them toward Jesus’ death and resurrection. Lent is an ancient practice. We hear about it from Irenaeus of Lyons, in Gaul, in the latter half of the second century. In the time of Irenaeus, Lent varied and didn’t have a fixed length. Some observed fasting for a day, others forty hours, and some for 2 days. It wasn’t until the mid-forth century that the forty day fast became common practice. The fact remains however, that the practice arrives very early in Christian history. What’s important however, is not how early it began but how the practice of Lent can nourish the lives of Christians like myself.
I picked two books for Lent, that I intend to read through the next forty days. The books I chose for this season are The Voice of the Psalms and The Wisdom of the Desert. The Voice of the Psalms is a translation of the Psalms with reflections written by Karen Moore and James F. Couch, Jr. It comes with a forty-day reading plan for Lent. The Psalms, as a finished compilation, have been a deep resource for spiritual nourishment for twenty-three hundred years. A psalter, such as this one, connects modern readers to the poetry of ancient Israel. It is a great resource for wisdom, discernment, and hope for modern readers. Thomas Merton’s, The Wisdom of the Desert, is a collection of sayings and parables from fourth century Christian Desert Fathers. While I don’t recommend Christians become long-term hermits, Merton found a well of insight from these early Christians. The collection is not ordered or centered around a theme, they are simply a collection Merton pulled together for himself and his friends. One excerpt from his collection reads, “It was said of Abbot Agatho that for three years he carried a stone in his mouth until he learned to be silent.” If you decide to read either of these books, it is my hope that they bless you and bring nourishment to your life.
The point of this really, is to put into practice the greatest command. Jesus taught his disciples, and continues to teach us through his Spirit, that we ought to love God with all our being, that is with our bodies, minds, souls, and with all our strength. Yet, just as Paul taught us, the greatest command is not a simple task. The scriptures and those spiritual men and women that came before us, are our guides as we practice faith and learn the meaning of the good news for ourselves. Jesus died but he was also raised. He died for us and he was raised for us as well. The victory of Jesus’ life gives us hope. So, what is nourishing you today? What you practice today will be what you rely upon tomorrow. So maybe it is time for a few more healthy practices, like Lent, in your life. Traditionally, Lent is accompanied with prayer and fasting. While a complete fast is not right for everyone, like diabetics such as myself, there are healthy ways you can honor God, and you decide what they will be. If you would like to join me in reading through these two books, let me know and I will send a weekly email out with some more thoughts about the material.
“Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!”
 Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert (New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1970), 30.