In Jenny Schroedel's retelling of one of the most famous stories about St Kevin of Ireland, the young Kevin goes to a solitary hermitage to spend the season of Lent, well-removed from the monastic community which has grown tired of his rebellious behavior. While Kevin is praying with his arms outstretched, something happens that changes Kevin and offers us a metaphor for the meaning and practice of Lent. To modern Christians, Lent, if they keep it at all, tends to be seen as the season of "giving up." All too often, we imagine that by giving up something that we did not really need in the first place we are keeping the spirit of the season. However, giving something up is in reality a passive way of keeping Lent, a case of doing less and somehow expecting that this will accrue to our spiritual benefit. This is not the way St Kevin set about to keep Lent.
Kevin went to his hut in the woods and began to pray. For him, prayer did not involve finding a warm spot and a comfortable position to settle in for a long quiet chat with God, or for a period of silent contemplation. Rather, in the ancient manner of prayer, Kevin stood with his arms outstretched, engaging his whole body in his prayer. And it was then that Kevin learned something, or perhaps was reminded of something he already knew: that prayer itself is an activity of the whole person, an act as well as a word, a movement of the body as well as the spirit, a matter much more of giving than of giving up. For as he prayed, a blackbird came and began to build a nest in his hand. Kevin spent the forty days of Lent holding the nest as eggs were laid and hatched and the young chicks finally learned to fly and left the nest. For forty days, Kevin entered into a prayer that engaged his entire being, a prayer that was more than giving. It was a total self-emptying. He could do nothing at all for himself. He could not eat or drink. He could not relax. He could not move at all. In the story, the blackbird who built the nest and laid the eggs also feeds Kevin, reminding us of Elijah who was fed by the ravens when he went into the wilderness to be alone with God. He was in no way passive, but he was entirely dependent. And from this active, yet dependent prayer, Kevin received new life--new life symbolized by the blackbird chicks which hatched in his hand, new life in the way his own rebellious ways were overcome and his life was transformed into saintliness, new life given ultimately by the Lord who rose from the tomb in the Paschal mystery we celebrate at the end of Lent.
The Celtic saints who laid the foundations for our Anglican tradition were an extreme lot. One might say that their practice of the faith was homely in the extreme. They lived in harsh times and seemed to exult in taking on harsh challenges, physically and spiritually. Thus, they challenge us in the softer times in which we live and in the softer ways in which we choose to live as Christians. No doubt, their stories have grown as they have been retold over the centuries. Nevertheless, they were heroes of the faith and we can find in their stories clues and hints for a fuller, deeper, and more homely Christian life. Another page on Full Homely Divinity, sets forth some principles for preparing and keeping a Lenten rule (click here). An overall rule, with specifics that meet your own state in life, is essential to a productive Lent. Now, here, with A Full Homely Lent, we have attempted to compile some resources and ideas to supplement your rule.
For each day of Lent, and also for the Sundays which technically are not "of" Lent but "in" Lent and do not count in the forty days of Lent, we provide an idea for reflection and/or action--hopefully with one leading to the other. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, self-examination and repentance, and reading and meditating on God's Word, provide the general structure of a Lenten rule and we have set aside particular days of the week to ensure that all of these are addressed regularly throughout Lent.
If you have not already done so, we invite you to start with Preparing for Lent, and then to read about Burying the Alleluia and The Dance of the Lenten Veils. Lent then begins on Ash Wednesday, February 25th. May you have a holy and blessed Lent, looking forward to a joyful Paschaltide.
Click on the links below to go to the page appropriate to the day. Links will
be activated gradually through the season.
At the bottom of each page, there is also a link to the following day.
The BlackbirdFiltered file heard on this page is from the freesoundproject, uploaded by acclivity. It is used here under a Creative Commons License.
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