If in suffering you can no longer give thanks for God’s
goodness and have no taste for paradox, from where comes
succor if nothing’s real but whirl of pain and echo,
“Why am I forsaken?”
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani . . . .
What is the meaning of our brother’s ending cry of sorrow?
Was it despair that all hope is lost – there is no loving abba?
Or was his cry a lament to love itself, the living tissue binding
us all together? Did he intend to point us past the sorrow
of the psalm he prayed and knew by heart to its ending praise
of ancient promise, remembered?
We will never stop these questions pouring from us. Lent
remembers “the tears of all things” – lacrimae rerum,
a world of tears of seemingly blameless suffering; a world
God made and loves and sees as good, as it is written.
Lent remembers we will be stripped of our carefully constructed
meanings, certainties, illusions, even our consolations,
to our primal animal sorrow. Lent reminds us, Momento mori,
remember your death. But of what use is remembrance if it
cancels life and life’s meaning?
Of what use are the words of those who cared enough to leave
their psalmic response in dialogue with our bewildered questions?
Facing into suffering and death, a choir of voices of our
foremothers and foresisters pray that we remember love is not
concerned with sin but with the sanctuary within that remains
blameless and whole in God’s mothering.
Their psalm resounds in polyphonic harmony –
. . . in God without end . . . all is well and shall be
well and all manner of things shall be well . . .
. . . trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be . . .
. . . we must just be . . . as simple as the growing corn
or the falling rain.
Sr. Wanda, CSJ, responding to the question, joins the choir from
within her small apartment in a meadow to sing her single word
beautiful in simplicity – spring. Word spoken stirs, wakens.
Lent simply is as the beauty of the lily simply is – mystery never
fully solved, question never fully answered within our human mortal
time. Each must live and respond in her own way of seeing and
claiming fulfillment of love’s promise – tears of sorrow bringing forth
new life that from the beginning has always known our Easter name.
Woven into my narrative verse reflection are words of women to whom I return for spiritual companionship: women who cared enough to take time to form in words what they learned as they lived the human story of sorrow and joy, Lent’s passion and suffering and mortality preceding Easter’s joy: women who’ve shown me a face of God and a theology different than the theology I was early taught – a theology that was sourced more in judgment and blame than in a heart opened to the source of infinite good. Julian of Norwich wrote Revelations of Divine Love in the 1300s during the plague of the Black Death. Her words, “All is well and shall be well and all manner of things shall be well,” resound through the centuries. They reflect her experience of God as our mother in infinite making, loving, caring. St. Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul, and her poems and prayers, record her “dark night” trial of faith. Though she died painfully of tuberculosis near the end of the 1800’s, she left us her prayer, “You must trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.” Etty Hillesum’s An Interrupted Life is a compilation of her diaries and letters, a testament of her refusal to hate and rant against the Nazi regime that intended to annihilate every Jew as less than human. Writing during the Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s, she perished with her family at Auschwitz in 1943. Spiritual director, Sr. Wanda, CSJ, lives in a small apartment duplex in a meadow. When I meet with her, I like to think of her as one of the “spiritual mothers” (desert ammas) of the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The living words of these women resonate.
One response to “A Reflection: “What is Lent For?””
Thank you for the work you put into this! Your theological knowledge is profound. I appreciate how you wove this into your poetry also. Truly a gift!