Two of my good friends and I are going to be in Ambleside together on Easter this year, and one of them suggested that we read this book together as our trip, and Easter, approaches. It is a beautiful, nourishing book full of prayers, scripture readings, poetry, and excerpts from stories that are meant to guide the reader through what it means to fully live the seasons of Lent, Easter, and Eastertide. I thought I would share it with you, since the readings begin today and you can download it for your Kindle and start immediately. Wherever they correlate, I am also supplementing the scripture readings with poetry from Mason's Saviour of the World.
Today's reading in the Arthur book was called "Wearing Mortality," and it included Tennyson's In Memoriam, which I believe was written following the death of his best friend (and brother-in-law?), Hallam. There were also poems about a woman dealing with breast cancer, being afraid that something will happen to your children, disease, losing love, and growing old. These are dark themes, but the season of Lent is dark. Its purpose is to move people towards penance and repentance, often through self-denial (hence the giving up of something for Lent). As I write that, I am reminded of another book I read recently by Barbara Brown Taylor called Learning to Walk in the Dark, which may also be a good read for this season. But the piece from today's reading that resonated with me the most was an excerpt from Hawthorne's The Minister's Black Veil, which was a story about a pastor who, one Sunday, wore a veil to cover his face during the church service. The people were very unnerved, and they responded in various ways, from saying that he was crazy to wondering why he wore it to being shaken and convicted to the core. One woman said, "He has changed himself into something awful only by hiding his face." And we, as humans, are made uncomfortable when we cannot see someone's face. The story reminded me of one of C.S. Lewis's books that had a profound effect on me a couple of years ago called Till We Have Faces. I read that book with another friend, who quoted 2 Corinthians 3:18:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
I think that the season of Lent is about more than just giving something up for 40 days. It is about living the dark time that Christ endured just prior to the crucifixion in order to be transformed. I hope that living Lent this year will transform me.
I ended this Ash Wednesday by attending a Spanish Mass with mi hermana latina, Rebeca, y sus hijos, Chloe y Noah. Though I only understood about half of what was being said, the service was lovely. It was a good way to begin the season. I look forward to celebrating the end of the season with other dear friends in Ambleside.