Lenten reflections by Christian Leaders: Rowan Williams & Pope Benedict XVI

March 3, 2009

Today I came across Abp. of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ Lenten Reflections for 2009.  It is in video form, though there is also a printed transcript, which is nice since I can’t watch video currently due to poor internet…  So, while I have not watched the video, I have read the short transcript.  Here is the concluding paragraph:

But it’s important to remember that the word ‘Lent’ itself comes from the old English word for ‘spring’. It’s not about feeling gloomy for forty days; it’s not about making yourself miserable for forty days; it’s not even about giving things up for forty days. Lent is springtime. It’s preparing for that great climax of springtime which is Easter – new life bursting through death. And as we prepare ourselves for Easter during these days, by prayer and by self-denial, what motivates us and what fills the horizon is not self-denial as an end in itself but trying to sweep and clean the room of our own minds and hearts so that the new life really may have room to come in and take over and transform us at Easter.

Ok, I agree it’s important to focus on Lent as preparation for Easter… this paragraph is fine as far as it goes.  But I’m disappointed the reflection ENDS here.  It felt as if after focusing on fairly trivial externals about the history and symbols of Lent, +Rowan was just getting into the meat of what Lent is about, and then he stops.

After reading the above, I couldn’t help but contrast the message from Rowan Williams with the excellent Lenten message of Pope Benedict XVI, which discusses fasting in some depth.  I have been very remiss in not linking or quoting from at any significant length here.

This section of Pope Benedict’s message, in particular, I found very important in terms of how it helps us look beyond our often narrow modern view of fasting – focused solely on its physical and health benefits – to appreciate its unseen spiritual benefits:

In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God. In the Apostolic Constitution Pænitemini of 1966, the Servant of God Paul VI saw the need to present fasting within the call of every Christian to “no longer live for himself, but for Him who loves him and gave himself for him … he will also have to live for his brethren“ (cf. Ch. I). Lent could be a propitious time to present again the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution, so that the authentic and perennial significance of this long held practice may be rediscovered, and thus assist us to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel (cf. Mt 22, 34-40).

The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord. Saint Augustine, who knew all too well his own negative impulses, defining them as “twisted and tangled knottiness” (Confessions, II, 10.18), writes: “I will certainly impose privation, but it is so that he will forgive me, to be pleasing in his eyes, that I may enjoy his delightfulness” (Sermo 400, 3, 3: PL 40, 708). Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.

The Pope’s Lenten message is truly MUST reading in full!

Anyway, I wish Archbishop Rowan and the CoE as a whole would take a page out of Pope Benedict’s book and stop “dumbing down” Lent…

Between +Rowan’s very short and not-very-deep message, and the almost insultingly basic “About Lent” and Lent FAQs resources at the CoE’s Love Life Live Lent site (which seem to spend more time talking about Pancakes, and Hot Cross Buns, and Football matches, than self-examination or spiritual growth…), I fear that the Church of England and its leadership have given up the hope that the church and Christians can truly transform the culture, and are merely accomodating it and trying to talk at the culture’s level rather than pointing the culture to eternal truths.

The CoE seems to want to be accepted by the culture, while the Roman Catholic church still seeks to call people out of the culture to be transformed.

Thoughts anyone… Am I being unfair to +Rowan (i.e. comparing apples & oranges – two messages meant for different audiences and purposes)?  Have I missed a deeper Lenten message or reflection from him somewhere?


Phil at Deacon’s Slant – blogging on the 7 Deadly Sins

March 3, 2009

In one of my Lent around the blogosphere posts, I noted Phil Synder at the Deacon’s slant was starting a Lenten series on sin.  He’s now begun to narrow his focus to discuss the seven deadly sins.  Here are the two links so far:

Deadly Sins:  Anger – Excellent! Here’s a small tidbit…

The sin of Anger is self-focused. It is open rebellion against God or other persons in order to remove obstacles (real or imagined) that come between our selves and our wills. It retaliates to any threat to our security, avenges insults and seeks redress of wrongs – normally in our favor.

Deadly Sins — Gives the introduction to the series.  Here’s a small tidbit:

Now, what is it about Sin that causes us to enter Hell? What causes us to be judged?
When I think of sin as part of our nature – our ontology or our being rather than specific acts, I get a better idea. Sin is living or thinking as if God does not exist. Sin takes us away from God, not because God sends us away, but because It is virtually impossible to reach your destination by stearing away from it. Sin is not just rebellion against God, it is acting as if you are God yourself and God Himself does not exist. Sin is unreality. Sin is death because it takes us away from the Author of Life Himself – God. The Seven Deadly Sins are so labled because they cause us to deviate from the Path that God set for us to reach Him.

VERY RECOMMENDED – especially as it treats the topic from a classical Anglican perspective!


Lent around the blogosphere – 4

March 3, 2009

I’ve found all sorts of excellent Lenten reflections, poems, prayers, etc. around the blogosphere in recent days. Unfortunately two constraints — my limited time this week and the often very poor quality of my internet connection here — are making it hard for me to write up or share much of what I’ve found.

So, for today, I’ll simply highlight a few links to blogs that have routinely beautiful / inspiring Lenten reflections, without adding too much comment or excerpts from posts at these blogs.

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Mrs Pogle’s World is a blog I discovered yesterday. She is doing a 40 Days of Prayer series for Lent, posting a prayer a day. For those looking for Lenten prayers, this series is definitely worth checking out.

It was this site where I found the fuller version of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer prayer which I had posted yesterday.  I also really liked the prayer of St. John Chrysostom for Day 3 of Lent.

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The Story-Formed Calendar blog is one I’ve already linked a few times and which is included in our sidebar links. I highly recommend the Lent category of this blog. I’m sure you’ll continue to see links to entries from that blog in our posts here. It’s really nicely done.

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I’ve perhaps not given enough attention here to Christine Sine’s Godspace blog and the Lenten “synchroblog” she’s coordinating.  Basically, Christine has rounded up 50+ bloggers who will be blogging during Lent and she will be regularly cross-posting entries from these blogs at her site.  She is particularly hoping that those of us who are participating (and I (Karen) signed up on behalf of Lent & Beyond) will tie the Lenten blog entries we send her way to the weekly themes of her 2009 Lenten Guide.  You’ll find all the Lent entries at Godspace here.

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For several years during Advent & Lent, I’ve routinely linked to the Passionists website with seasonal reflections and prayers, some especially geared for children.  Most of those reflections and prayers have been written by Victor Hoagland, and yesterday, I discovered Victor Hoagland now has a blog.

I really liked the beginning of his entry from today “Praying with Christ” – it’s a good reminder we’re not alone in the “wilderness” of our Lenten journey.

The great background theme playing through our Lenten days is the story of the Exodus. Like the children of Israel guided by Moses, we go forward on our desert journey guided by Jesus Christ.

His presence with us is greater than the presence of Moses among the Israelites, however. Like branches on the vine he gathers us to himself.

He is with us when we pray, weak and stumbling as our prayer may be. Remember his presence in prayer, St. Cyprian says in today’s reading.  “Let the Son who lives in our hearts, be also on our lips.”

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Beauty from Chaos is a dedicated blog for Lent.  I don’t know too much about the background or contributors.  I believe most of the contributors are Scottish, and I wonder if perhaps this might be the successor to the 2006 Scottish Lent blog which inspired our 2006 Anglican bloggers Lenten devotional collaboration on this side of the pond….  In any case, several of the Lenten entries they’ve posted so far have been quite stunning visually.  Given that my internet connection issues are making doing any illustrated posts a huge challenge, for those craving more visually-stimulating Lent meditations, this may be a blog to check out.  My favorite post so far is The Gate of Glory.

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Another blog with good Lenten reflections which I discovered (or perhaps rediscovered… it seems familiar to me) is the Cruciform Life.  My favorite Lenten post there — and one which will no doubt reappear as a Lent quote here! — is this one:  Lent Calls Us to Put our Indifference to Death. Amen!

***

I’m sure I’m forgetting some blogs and things I wanted to highlight!  But this is enough for one afternoon.  It’s truly encouraging to see the depth & breadth of Lenten blogging.  I don’t recall seeing nearly so many Lent-focused blogs in years’ past.  Lent is definitely no-longer a season just for Catholics, Episcopalians or Lutherans… These blogs reveal that there is a hunger in Christians and churches — from all sorts of traditions — for silence, reflection, spiritual disciplines, and self-examination leading to repentance and transformation.  It’s great to see.

The problem for me now will be to not let all this Lent “noise” and all these voices distract me from the One whose Voice I most need to hear this season…


The Falls Church has a Lenten Devotional guide

March 3, 2009

I’ve just been informed by a commenter at Stand Firm that Kairos, the young adults ministry of the Falls Church in Northern Virginia, has a Lenten Devotional guide available. You can download the PDF file here.

I know I’m biased, but it’s great to see some of the flagship ACNA parishes (Truro, Falls Church, Christ Church Plano, Church of the Resurrection in Tampa) producing such high quality (and varied!) Lenten devotional resources and sharing them online.

Even though we’re now a week into Lent, I truly hope readers will continue to let us know via comments or e-mail about recommended Anglican (or orthodox Episcopal) Lent resources.


Lent Prayers: St. Thomas Aquinas – Give light to my blindness

March 3, 2009

From our archives, originally posted March 2007

Lent Prayers: Prayer of Thomas Aquinas
Filed under: Saints & Church Fathers, Lent 2007, Lent Prayers — Karen B.

‘Almighty and everlasting God, you see that I am coming to the sacrament of your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I come to it as a sick man to the life-giving healer, as one impure to the fount of mercy, as one blind to the light of eternal brightness, as one who is poor and destitute to the Master of heaven and earth. I turn therefore to the abundance of your immense generosity, begging that you will deign to heal my infirmity, cleanse my uncleanness, give light to my blindness, enrich my poverty, clothe my nakedness.’

Quoted in an essay by Yves Congar.
Hattip Texanglican


An Index of our Lent 2009 entries (Feb 23 – Mar 2)

March 3, 2009

I’ve updated our Lent 2009 “home page” / index which appears at the top of the blog.  It now provides a rough index of all Lent entries we’ve posted so far in various categories.  I’ll try to update that every few days.

For the sake of convenience, here is the index as it looks this morning:

1.  Our Lent entries by category:
Lent Devotionals
Lent Prayers
Lent Quotes
Lent Resources
Lent: Family & Children

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2.  Other quick links – Notable Posts (Updated March 3)

(With the exception of the resources list, entries are listed more or less in order of posting, most recent first)

a. Resources
Our Top Ten Favorite Lent Resources
Some NEW Lenten Resources to recommend
Update on Anglican Lent Resources
An Appeal for Anglican Lenten Resources
Lent for children & families: A Lenten version of a “Jesse Tree”
Lent Resource: Trinity School for Ministry Daily Devotionals
Lent Resource: 40 Days for Life
Recommended Resource: This Day in the Word
Anglican Relief & Development’s Lenten Appeal
Ash Wednesday Resources & Links
From our Archives: Index of all the 2006 Anglican Bloggers Lenten Devotional posts

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b. Prayers
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – In Me there is Darkness, but with You there is Light
Arise Thou Sun Upon the Winter Landscape of My Heart
Charles Wesley – Make My Heart a House of Prayer
EB Pusey – May we weary of all which is not His
Lenten Prayer: to be freed from the seven deadly sins
St. Augustine – Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit
One blogger’s Daily Prayer for Lent
Ash Wednesday Prayers: Turn to us O Lord, and we shall be turned
St. Anselm – Grant us Grace to Desire You with a whole heart
Two Ash Wednesday Prayers
Charles Wesley: Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies
St. Polycarp – Increase in us faith, truth and gentleness

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c.  Quotes

Jean Pierre de Caussade – the active practice of fidelity
Henri Nouwen – How am I to let myself be found by Him?
Hesychios – Set your soul in quietness
Pope Benedict XVI on Fasting
Giving up sin, not chocolate! (and an excellent set of questions for self examination)
St. Macarius the Great – Make a Beginning Every Day
The purpose of spiritual disciplines
Teresa of Avila – bringing our wills into conformity with the will of God

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d. Devotionals / Meditations:

From our Archives: Seek the Lord and Live, an Ash Wednesday Devotional
“Ashes”
An “emergent Catholic” reflects on prayer – “activity” vs. “meditation”
From our Archives: Index of all the 2006 Anglican Bloggers Lenten Devotional posts
Reflecting further on the juxtaposition of the Transfiguration & Lent
Preparing for Lent: What can I do before Lent begins?
Dr. Peter Toon reflects on Lent and justification by faith

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e. Miscellaneous:

Lent around the blogosphere – 3
Lent Around the Blogosphere – 2
Lent around the blogosphere (updated)


Lent Quotes: the real question of Lent

March 3, 2009

Unfortunately, the practice of entering into the Lenten season has often been
reduced to the question: “What are you giving up for Lent?” This is a fine question, but it can only take us so far. The real question of the Lenten season is: How will I find ways to return to God with all my heart?

from an Ash Wednesday sermon “Lent: An Invitation to Return to God” by Ruth Haley Barton found linked at the blog A Ruach Journey


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