Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday, 2010

Shrove Tuesday pancakes
and with real maple syrup—
before lenten fare.

Sometime early last December I began writing haiku poetry, something that I hadn’t done in a long time. I was preparing for a retreat talk and was looking for ideas for an activity that would engage people in the biblical text we were using. Haiku are short poems, no longer than 17 syllables written in three lines of five, seven and five syllables. In their brevity, haiku capture a thought and feeling about a fleeting moment, something that intrigues the poet’s heart. Haiku are wonderful for capturing the essence, the pearls of wisdom that we read in Holy Scripture.

This haiku I wrote as I was thinking about pancakes for supper on Shrove Tuesday and the delight of having real maple syrup, a treat before the simpler lenten fare which begins with Ash Wednesday. You know the saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”? Well, fasting from things, a common practice in Lent, is to make the enjoyment of them ever sweeter when you take them up once more.

Shortly after I began writing haiku again I found a book called Haiku – The Sacred Art: A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines, by Margaret D. McGee [see excerpts here], which I eagerly read. In it was a challenge to write a haiku a day for 100 days. As of today I am at #33 with the haiku on Shrove Tuesday. It is a challenge and a discipline. It puts me in mind of the season of Lent we are approaching and of the various ways people will mark this season.

Some people will mark the season of Lent by giving up things such as chocolate or coffee or wine. The Church generally abstains from using Alleluias during lent. The Rev. Margaret Guenther, Anglican priest, renowned author, speaker and spiritual director, once suggested that people might fast from the media for a while. Imagine giving up television during Lent or the internet. Rather than letting go of things, other people will intentionally take on spiritual practices during Lent such as practising patience, kindness, gentleness, and making donations — what we used to call almsgiving.

Both ways, giving up and taking on, get at the essence of the spiritual reasons behind why we do these things. Any spiritual discipline we take on is to help us put on the mind and heart of Christ in our daily lives in an intentional way. Practising the discipline for 40 days will help make it a habit. Or you might take on something like the 100 day haiku challenge instead. May you have a blessed and holy Lent.

Sr. Elizabeth Ann, SSJD

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