Sunday, March 09, 2014

Lent, Day Five

This is the room I stayed in a few years ago in a convent/guest house in Assisi. I was reminded of it tonight while watching the beautiful film Into Great Silence, a documentary about the life of Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps. My little room was modernized, albeit small and simple. (You can see that my suitcase would not even allow the cabinet door to close....and what you see is the entire room, from the doorway.)

The Grande Chartreuse monastery rooms looked a bit more like this one, however, which is from a Franciscan monastery in Fiesole, above Florence, Italy. (These rooms are no longer used, as it  has become a museum.)

Lent is here. For those who choose to participate, it is a very special time. I have a couple of friends who have confided to me, thinking they are strange for saying it, that Lent is one of their favorite times of the year--and are happy to hear me say, "Mine, too." I don't know how it will go, but I hope to share more thoughts on Lent over the next few weeks. I won't be joining a monastery, but I do hope to focus this time on more intentional spiritual discipline, as my life is in great need of that, having been spread far and wide the past year or more.

If you haven't seen Into Great Silence, I would encourage you to find it, set aside three hours, and watch it. Be sure to watch it all the way to the end. And don't watch it when you are tired, as it does require energy and focus. (It features a lot of silence--beautiful, calm, transcendent silence.) I hope if you do, it will help you focus on growing your spirit, whether you "do" Lent or not.

One of the themes you can't help but hear in the film is that giving up self, losing one's life out of love for God, ultimately leads to beauty and profound gratitude.

Spiritual energy, spiritual activity, spiritual eloquence. . .do not come from ecstasy
but from a humbly grateful heart.
Forgiveness of sins is what the gospel is all about.
Forgiveness of sins is what Christ's death upon the cross is all about.
The purpose of Lent is to arouse. To arouse the sense of sin. To arouse a sense of guilt for sin.
To arouse the humble contrition for the guilt of sin that makes forgiveness possible.
To arouse the sense of gratitude for the forgiveness of sins.
To arouse or to motivate the works of love and the work for justice that one does
out of gratitude for the forgiveness of one's sins.

Lent is not a tediously long brooding over sin.
Lent is a journey that could be called an upward descent,
but I prefer to call it a downward ascent.
It ends before the cross,
where we stand in the white light of a new beginning.

 ~excerpted from Edna Hong,
in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter,
crucifix from a small church in Vicenza, Italy, whose name I cannot recall,
cross below from Kristova Crkva in Zagreb, Croatia

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