As we continue journeying through Lent, Sacred Space is offering resources, prayers, and reflections to help guide us as a community through this season of lament and repentance. Here, first year Master of Divinity student Drew Dixon offers an overview of Lent, the reasons we observe it, and the resources that are available to help deepen our practice. Check back in coming weeks for more stories and reflections as we move together toward Holy Week.
I don’t lament well. From a very early age I had to provide containment for my home. So I learned how to hold everything in, how to stay cool, calm, and collected. And I was always encouraged for being that way. I never really learned how to cry or be angry, so I don’t usually. But the season of Lent is one of fasting and lament. I didn’t grow up practicing it but ever since I discovered it, Lent has taught me what it means to sit in pain, to be angry over injustice, and to grieve the things that aren’t right in the world. So what is it all about?
About two weeks ago some of you were wandering about your day with ashes on your head, while others might have wondered what that was all about. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent. For hundreds of years, much of Western Christianity has remembered this day by imposing ashes on the forehead in the shape of the cross with the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The ashes and these words are a bleak reminder of the ways that death still has hold of our world. The shape of the cross is a reminder of Christ’s resurrection and calls us to hope through death. This is a small taste of what the season of Lent is all about.
Lent is the forty-day season which culminates in Easter. Beginning in the cold of winter from which spring emerges, this season has traditionally been marked by fasting and penance, preparing the soul for a celebration of resurrection. Lent is a season when we lament the darkness of the world and repent for the ways in which we have contributed to that darkness.
Beginning with our own mortality, Lent is a season which calls forth lament. Lament, put simply, is naming things that are not right. Lament can be deeply personal, broadly communal, and highly societal. There are things not right with ourselves, our communities, and our society whether it be, respectively, the tragedy of abuse, the neglect of exclusion, or the injustice of discrimination. There is much to lament.
Lent begins with a call to lament and moves toward a call to repent. There is much wrong with the world, but there is also much wrong that we have contributed to the world. Whether we have abused or ignored those around us, there are ways that we can turn from darkness and call forth light. Sometimes this repentance takes the form of fasting and withholding certain things from our own lives. Other times it looks like generosity and giving to those around us. Regardless, it is a season that beckons transformation through lamenting and repenting—both of which are intended to cultivate hope of a transformed world.
Lent at The Seattle School
The Sacred Space realm has put together events, spaces, and practices to guide us through the season of Lent here at the school. Below are a few highlights. For more information, see the booklet which is available at the front desk and in the chapel on the fourth floor.
We have new gallery rotations for the season of Lent featuring Zac Davis (’07 MACP) on the 2nd Floor and Caleb Dodson (2nd year MATC) on the 3rd Floor. Please join us on Monday, March 9, 6:15-7:15 p.m. in the Commons for an Art on Our Walls conversation with the artists.
Along with the prayer stations, icons, and candles that are available throughout the year, materials have been added for staff and students to use during the season of Lent. We welcome you to touch the ashes of the laments that have been burned, or to shroud yourself in a blanket as you pray and meditate.
The chalkboard and art shelf outside the chapel are stocked with supplies to provide additional ways of connecting with God. We invite you to add to it by creating confessions and laments. There will be an informal gallery space to share your art with others.
We lament because things are not right. Yet we far too easily grow comfortable with the way things are. May the laments provided remind us that God’s Kingdom is real and is coming. We confess because we are not right. Yet our hearts far too easily grow hard in their ways. May the confessions provided remind us that God’s mercy is real and is new every morning.
I encourage you to not always use this booklet by yourself. Take time to read these words with your roommates, spouses, partners, families, classmates, and friends. Pause and silently reflect on them together. Maybe rewrite some of them using your own words or let the prayers in the booklet become shapes and colors on a page using the art supplies we provide on the fourth floor.
However you choose to interact with this season, we at Sacred Space would love to hear about it. Please share some of your stories of Lent with us. If you have any more questions about the season or even if you just want someone to lament, confess, and pray with, we want to make ourselves available to you. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be blessed throughout this season. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. May you and the world around you be transformed by our lamenting and repenting.
Photo above by Roseanne Pearson, 2011.