Preparing for Lent 2

One of the ways in which we prepare for Lent in the monastery is to write a Lent Bill*. This is a record of everything we have for our personal use, from books to scissors. It is supposed to be written with complete honesty, e.g. a radio is NOT to be described as ‘a box of wires’, and given to the superior, or in her case, to another nun, to be looked at and, if necessary, changes made. Why do we do this, and how could it help anyone outside a monastery?

The fact is most of us have a tendency to accumulate more than we need. We begin the year with a little token decluttering, but within a very short time one pen has become two, a single pair of shoes has somehow transformed into two or three, and we’d better not say anything about all those items we never really notice in our store cupboards or drawers. Lent is meant to remind us of our total dependence on God but our possessions often hide that fact from us. We rely on them rather than him. Taking a cool look at what we have and assessing it in the light of what we need is a very humbling exercise. During the forty days of Lent we must travel light. It is quite difficult to pray in a room that is over-stuffed with clutter. In the same way, it is difficult to focus on God if we are surrounded with unnecessary  abundance.

It would be impractical to suggest that everyone should write a Lent Bill, but we can all reflect on our material possessions and the ways in which they bind us. I would suggest that we go further and reflect on our spiritual possessions, too. Are we a trifle too confident in our own zeal? Or, on the other hand, is there something lacking that we try to hide from ourselves and others because it doesn’t quite fit the image of ourselves that we’d like to have? Before we begin to think about the practices and penances we shall adopt, let’s think about how to start Lent in the right frame of mind. The period before Lent is traditionally known as Shrovetide, when we confess our sins and ask the grace of true amendment. Both the Lent Bill and confession are all about honesty, starting afresh and trusting to God for the outcome. I think they are an excellent way to prepare for Lent itself.

  • A Lent Bill is of two parts: the first, which I discuss above, is technically known as a Poverty Bill. The second, the Lent Bill proper, details the penances the individual would like to perform during Lent. I hope to discuss this second aspect tomorrow.
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10 thoughts on “Preparing for Lent 2”

  1. A recent emergency op and spell in hospital forced me to be parted from all but essentials. If I could not reach it from my bedside it was denied me! Had a lot of time to pray/reflect (Not always the inclination). Choosing to go through a similar process would require great discipline. Having read the post I will try to reassess each “thing” I use or value. It will be hard to be honest though – things that bring comfort and/or entertain might be time wasters or as you say may contribute to obscuring God or even worse making Him less important in my eyes. Recognising the fault in me will be the hard part.

    • Prayers for your speedy recovery! I think an important aspect of the monastic way of doing things is that we involve another, not just ourselves, in assessing whether something should be kept or not. Trickier for lay people, I admit; so do not be too harsh on yourself, because that, too, is a temptation.

      • Thanks for the prayers. I have to agree that the structures of monastic life (while seeming too strict for most of us lay people!) do seemed designed to support as well as challenge. I can not replicate the way of life but my goal is always to try to learn something from such good examples and, thanks to your explanations, find focus as well as practical steps to take on my journey. Once again many thanks. You can not imagine how much your words help those of us who seek a little extra guidance but find sources rather scarce.

  2. Thank you. Today seems a good day to try to make a start….and …I’ll Look forward to tomorrow. … to try to make another start…

  3. I think that I will be a passive observer of this first part.
    I’ve tried poverty when juggling low pay, four children and ever increasing mortgage rates. It didn’t suit me :0)
    Now that I am old and relatively well off I find a bit of surplus suits me.

  4. I’m catching up… just read Preparing for Lent 2 (you have published 4!) I have a long way to go….

    However, just reading this blog has made me stop and tidy/reorganise/re-evaluate the bookshelf that is ahead of me as I pray. It was so cluttered with books half read/intending to be read/never going to be read/read but not put away. You are right… it was a distraction… I need to tackle my desk next…

    Thank you! (genuinely)

    Now, (muses) do I do that before or after reading the next blog?

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