The Lenten…Feast

Oxymoron?

Lent is a season of absence…of hunger…of longing. Beginning Monday, Christians in the eastern tradition will not eat meat, dairy or eggs until Pascha. A vegan diet is a clean diet. Plant foods digest quickly. What this means is that we will frequently know the gnawing of a stomach that is empty. And our stomachs will inform our hearts. We will wear longing in our bodies. Viscerally. An inescapable meditation.

Christians of many traditions will choose to clean other clutter from their lives during this season of preparation. Some will fast from media. Others from activity and hurry. Seeking to create a quiet space where they can hear the voice of God. And the voice of their own soul.

But Lent isn’t only absence. Church tradition also encourages us to to admit into this quiet space gentle voices that will help wash our souls. That will strengthen our spirits, even as our bodies know hunger. We need this. Lent is hard. Fasting doesn’t just rid our cells of toxins. Toxic places in our hearts reveal themselves as well. The Church will help with special gatherings unique to this season, beginning with the solemn, beautiful Forgiveness Vespers on Sunday afternoon.

Here are some other voices I will invite into my quiet Lenten space this year:

Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha This will be my third time to walk through Lent with Schmemann as my wise and winsome guide. He illuminates the exquisite services of this season making them even more lovely and profound.

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives Elder Thaddeus was a wise and gentle spirit who cared for his people in the midst of great personal suffering. May I learn to love as he loved…to see as he saw.

Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts Gratitude is always the antidote to self-pity. In a season of want, I have an idea Ann will be a worthy companion. I have been challenged, inspired, and deeply moved by her blog. I look forward to traveling further with her.

Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart Nouwen is a familiar friend. His tender, honest voice always manages to enable even hard truths find a place inside me. This teaching, drawn from the desert fathers, on solitude, silence and prayer, will be rich fuel for the journey.

David Teems, Speak To Me: For a Faith That Comes by Hearing Favorite Scripture passages, articulated in the poetry of the King James Bible, and accompanied by delicious musical artistry, sing their way into the heart. And I am drenched in fluid peace.

The Sisters of St. Paisius Monastery, A Treasury of Spiritual Songs and All-Night Vigil The hauntingly lovely music, the tenderness and truth sing silence into the room. Into me.

The Brilliance, Brilliance Rich lyric…sometimes drawn from Scripture or prayers of the saints. Elegant, spare arrangements. Profoundly beautiful.

So if you happen to hear my tummy growling, don’t worry about me. Where it really matters, I am feasting.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
II Corinthians 4:16-17

What about you? What does Lent look like for you this year? How will you go about creating a space of quiet? Who will be your companions?