A Benedictine Approach to Lent
As Benedictines we have the advantage of a whole chapter of the Rule devoted to the observance of Lent. It is clear, direct and joyful, so I suggest we begin by listening to what St Benedict has to say. It forms the basis of the posts to which I link below and will explain, I trust, why Lent is always greeted with joy in the monastery. The call to simplify our lives, discover God anew (or rather, allow God to discover us anew), is one we are apt to think harsh or difficult, forcing ourselves to become what we are not, whereas St Benedict sees the process as our becoming more and more what we are meant to be, a gracious flowering of the gifts given us at baptism. Our Lenten journey is thus a joyous pilgrimage towards Easter and total transformation in Christ.
Here are four consecutive posts that deal explicitly with the teaching in this chapter, but you may prefer to pass on to the more obviously practical content listed under Preparing for Lent. All links open in a new tab.
Preparing for Lent
Here are five consecutive posts about preparing for Lent — all very simple and practical. You’ll find I don’t use the word ‘penance’ very often, and there’s a good reason for that.
The importance of prayer before we decide what we are going to do for Lent. Of course, what God decides to do for Lent may be quite different from what we intended or expected. You have been warned!
An introduction to the Lent Bill as a way of simplifying our lives. Lockdown has led to some decluttering of material things, but have you thought about the need to declutter spiritually, too?
‘Going it alone’ is not a good idea. A friend who knows us well may give better advice than a confessor we see rarely.
A brief look at the three traditional disciplines of Lent — prayer, fasting and almsgiving — of which the most important and difficult is almsgiving.
The importance of the Lent book ‘read straight through in its entirety’. You can ignore the second half of the post which was for 2018. This year we invite you to join the community and our oblates in reading the Acts of the Apostles. We go through it in Eastertide but seeing it whole and studying it now will enrich that experience. It certainly has a lot to say about our current turmoil! Later this week I hope to post a few questions that may be useful to anyone reading the text as lectio divina.
There is just one more post I’ll add now, about the practice of lectio divina.
This particular entry is concerned with the Rule of St Benedict, but I hope it contains some helpful pointers about reading a Lent book or the daily Mass readings. Being humble before the Word of God is something many of us find at odds with everything we have been taught academically. We want to argue and tear meaning from a text; but it isn’t easy to do that on our knees, and, anyway, I have a suspicion that when we come to be judged, we’ll be questioned more closely about how we responded to the scripture and put it into practice than our brilliant hypotheses about authorship or anything similar.
As Lent Begins
I realise I have listed ten posts. There are many more, but it would be kinder to leave you to search them out for yourselves. You can use the search box in the right hand bar (large screen devices) or the pull-down menu on the left (small screen devices). Most of my own plans for February have been dashed because I made the fundamental mistake of forgetting that God is in charge. I didn’t expect to be unwell enough to be forbidden to go online, but now I am getting better I see the wisdom in that. I still believe that cyberspace has huge potential for good but our community involvement does lead to a lot of correspondence which can be draining as well as energizing (especially when I feel guilty about not keeping up!). I hope that I am now a little readier for what Lent offers. We shall be praying for you. Please pray for us, too. May we all be upheld by the joy of the Holy Spirit as we set out into the unknown, knowing that Easter and the Resurrection are at the end of our quest.