The Spiritual Selfie – beginning the way through Lent

The 40 days leading up to Easter are – for Christian believers in such – a time of quiet and self-contemplation. This is different from the 40 days leading up to Christmas known as Advent which is also a time of quiet reflection (spiritually,) and yet is a time of anticipation.

Something new is about to happen! How do we / how do I prepare for whatever that change is?

In Lent, it’s all about me: where am I now spiritually? What’s going well, and what’s not? What needs change? What can I do to be both a better Christian and a better member of a greater community?

If you subtract out the “Christian” part, you can see how this works as a great plan for anyone of a contemplative slant: taking a dedicated, demarked time off for a lot of spiritual selfies of how we are, internally. What we believe. What we do not believe. And (the most important part), where do we need to improve.

Think of this as your annual spiritual review. You give yourself some new “jobs,” you drop off some that aren’t working, and you evaluate.

Our life as contemplative people is always this process of trying, review, change, and trying again.

The sort-of traditional way that Lent works is that one “gives up” something for these 40 days, and here is where all the late-night jokes come into play: giving up paying bills, giving up the wife, giving up my job, etc. etc.

What should happen in reality is that you give up something that will cause you some degree of distress to have to do without it for these 40 days. For me, it would be something like drinking coffee. I would say something like watching a favorite TV show except that I know my DVR would record it and I’d just watch it a month from now.

And, Lent is also a time to take on something new. (This part doesn’t make it to the late-night standup routines, so you might not be familiar with it.) The idea here is we add on something that is a task of some sort that needs resolution, not a burden that is impossible or will cause additional stress and fatigue.

And there doesn’t need to be a 100:100 balance of taking on vs. letting go. Going into Lent this year I found lots of taking on, and haven’t been inspired yet (two days into the event) of what to take off. Perhaps I’m burden hoarding this year!

That still doesn’t take me away from the central idea of these 40 day, of introspection and turning over the rocks in my spiritual path and looking to see what sorts of bugs and worms are under there. There’s no goal as to what happens with this self-examination: it’s not meant to necessarily make you better or worse, or to make you just throw up your hands and give up on all of it. The idea is that you have looked inside yourself and your own spirituality (of whatever type you have,) and that you better understand what you saw.

Change, then, will come out of that understanding.

Keep the faith!

 

A call to prayer and service at the beginning of Lent:

 

Dear People of God:

The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.

This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church.

Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

 

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At the end of these 40 days – during the great brouhaha of the Easter season and on into what we call “the ordinary time,” – how many of the things you gave up will stay off your agenda, and how many of those jobs that you took on, will remain?

 

Rosary Prayers During Lent

It’s not just the Roman Catholics who use a rosary or other prayer beads (like a mala), or a prayer cord  to help draw the mind closer to prayer, and concentrate on when words are said, especially when at the same time one is deep in prayer.

Distracting thoughts pop in and without some assistance…

we get “What is it I’m supposed to say next?” or “Where are we going with this?”

The use of a rosary or prayer beads  is not only about expressing any particular religious faith. It is also about directing the mind (and spirit) into a deeply prayerful (meditative) state.

This is where the change starts to happen.

This short set of Lenten Prayers focus on using the Anglican (Protestant) Rosary (see this page  for a description) to keep the meditative progression going.  I have left in the Christian references to Jesus and Easter since this was originally a Christian practice. Adjust the wording to fit your meditative/prayer practice:

 


On the Cross or the terminal charm. The gloria patri.

Glory be to the father, and the son, and the holy spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now and will be forever.
– Amen

On the Invitatory (first) Bead. A prayer adapted from St. Jerome.

O Lord, you have given us your word for a light to shine upon our path;
grant me so to meditate on that word, and to follow its teaching,
that I may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 – Amen

On the first Cruciform bead.  A prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Lord, Jesus Christ, fill me, I pray, with your light and life.

On the first set of  weeks beads.

My God is the God of all things.

2- The God of heaven and earth,

3- The God of the seas and the streams,

4- The God of the sun and the stars,

5- The God of the great high mountains and the deep glens,

6- The God above heaven, in heaven and under heaven.

7- My God is the God of all things.

 

On the second Cruciform bead.  A prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Lord, Jesus Christ, fill me, I pray, with your light and life.

On the second set of  weeks beads.

1- Lord Jesus Christ, you are the sun that always rises but never sets.

2- You are the source of all life, creating and sustaining every living thing.

3- You are the source of all food, nourishing me in both body and soul.

4-You are the light that dispels the clouds of error and doubt, and goes before me every hour of the day.

5- May I walk in your light and be nourished by your food,

6- May I be sustained by your mercy and warmed by your love.

7- Lord, Jesus Christ, you are the sun that always rises but never sets.

 

On the third Cruciform bead.  A prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Lord, Jesus Christ, fill me, I pray, with your light and life.

 

 On the third set of six beads.

1 – Kindle in my heart, O God, the flame of love that never ceases,

2 – May I shine forever in your temple, set on fire with your eternal light.

3 – My soul’s desire is to see the face of God, and to rest in his house.

4 – Let me go forth in the radiance of his Holy Spirit,

5 – Let me go forth in the faith of the apostles,

6 – Let me go forth in the holiness of the saints,

7 – Let me go forth in the joyful praise of the angels.

 

On the fourth Cruciform bead.  A prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Lord, Jesus Christ, fill me, I pray, with your light and life.

 

On the fourth set of week’s beads.

1 – As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.

2 – My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

3 – The Lord grants his loving-kindness in the daytime; In the night season his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

4 – I put my trust in God, who is the help of my countenance and my God.

5 – I pour out my soul when I think on these things.

6 – Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

And bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling;

7 – That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness;

And on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God, my God.

 

On the return to the first cruciform bead.  Adapted from a prayer of St. Columba

Lord, be a bright flame before me,
Today and for evermore.

On the return to the Invitatory bead.  From St. Simeon.

Come, true light.
Come, life eternal.
Come, hidden mystery.

On the return to the Cross or the terminal charm. from the Book of Common Prayer (1981)

Almighty God, you have poured on me the new light of your incarnate Word;
Grant that this light, enkindled in my heart, may shine forth in my life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God, now and forever.
 – Amen.

Glory be to the father, and the son, and the holy spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now and will be forever.
– Amen

 

 

For more information on how to pray with a rosary or beads, please see this page on Rosary Prayers – How To.

Keep the faith!

 

Trustworthy? – a prayer during Lent

Oftentimes it isn’t a question of how much trust you put in the Universe, or the Maker, or whatever noun you use here. More likely it is the case of how much trust that Creator puts in you.

I am reflecting on a comment from a friend who said this week:

I am so tired of the awful things these crazy religious people do and say that it makes me ashamed to be a Christian.”

I find no stress in the things those people do or say as much as I do stress out in the knowledge that these people do not have a clear understanding of the “Religion(sic) that they profess. I wonder: given that many professed Christian people today pick up half-backed drips and drabs of ideas on what they (personally) think is right, stir that with a few out-of-context Biblical quotes (you know the ones!) and add the watering down of contemporary Biblical translations written for an un-reading contemporary society, and prayers that are long, rehearsed recitations of that pray-ers personal shopping list,

How much would God – the Maker – the Universe – trust them to follow – and seek – Universal Truth?

Being a spiritual person is very easy to do. Being a religious person is very difficult. Religion is not all perfect, and in a perfect world it is a constantly-evolving thing. Just as God evolves (no more plagues… no more earth-drowning floods… no more destroying cities with fire or turning people to salt), so must we, and so must our understanding of what “religion” means outside of our own experience.

Spirituality is a single effort. Religion happens in public (in communion, if you will.) To become proficient at both, you will (spiritually) break a sweat, and then your tongue will ache from the bite marks, and your ears will ring from all the listening instead of speaking. And at that end, while you are all sweaty, numb-tongued, and ear-ringing, somewhere in there you will find the God who is looking to find you. For those who believe in Born Again, realize that this salvation moment and subsequent baptism is not the end of the party. Maybe it’s too obvious for some to see that the term Born Again means a re-birth. It means a time to begin this new journey – to listen and learn, and to develop into the person to be loved (always) and trusted (more) by God.

For those who come from a tradition of Infant Baptism: As Dorothy Allison once said to me (and made me cry!)

You. Owe. Me.

In your early months of life when you were Baptized, a lot of people stood around and made promises on raising you up as a good and faithful and well-meaning person. I have done this many times over the years in our parish and take that obligation very seriously to do whatever I can to help that child grow up to be the best person they can be.

Review your church’s Baptismal Covenant. Check to see if the people around you are holding up their part of the deal. Look inside to see if you are holding up yours. I will entertain no arguments about this being something that was done on your behalf in infancy. I will hear no arguments from the other team saying that Infant Baptism is invalid. I will make it very simple for you: if you agree with the concept as it pertains to you, then you should review, take notes on what should improve in your life, and the lives of those around you. (see “communion,” above)

If you do not believe in such things and you consider it invalid, then please feel free to shut up, stop whining about how bad your life is, and use the door out of that mindset to find your own spiritual bliss.  It really is out there. Just keep in mind that the spirituality part is very easy. The religion part will make you work.

  • Will your meditations and your prayers and your actions through the 40 day desert of Lent lead you to a place of knowing-more?
  • Will you arrive at a point of understanding even a tiny bit  more than you did before you began?
  • Will these 40 days of contemplation and redemption land you even one step closer to being that person in whom God -Maker – Universe puts their almighty trust that you – at last – are seeking the better path?

So many questions, and so few days to come closer to your own answers!

– Keep the faith!

 


A prayer on the Trust of God, for Lent

 

God of Peace,
You have put your Holy Spirit
in our hearts.

Your spirit renews at every moment
your love for us.

And we wish to do
all we can
so that the trust you place in us
overflows
in love for others.

– Amen