These daily readings by Laurence Freeman, a Benedictine monk and Director of The World Community for Christian Meditation, are to help those following them make a better Lent. This is a set time and preparation for Easter, during which special attention is given to prayer, extra generosity to others and self-control. It is customary to give something up, or restrain your use of something but also to do something additional that will benefit you spiritually and simplify you. Running through these readings will be an encouragement to start to make meditation a daily practice or, if it already is, then to deepen it by preparing for the times of meditation more carefully. The morning and evening meditations then become the true spiritual centre of your day. Here is the tradition, a very simple way of meditation, that we teach:
Sit down, Sit still with your back straight. Close your eyes lightly. Breathe normally. Silently, interiorly begin to repeat a single word, or manta. We recommend the ancient prayer phrase ‘maranatha’. It is Aramaic (the language of Jesus) for ‘Come Lord’, but do not think of its meaning. The purpose of the mantra is to lay aside all thoughts, good, bad, indifferent together with images, plans, memories and fantasies. Say the word as four equal syllables: ma ra na tha. Listen to it as you repeat it and keep returning to it when you become distracted. Meditate for about twenty minutes each morning and evening. Meditating with others, as in a weekly group, is very helpful to developing this practice as part of your daily life. Visit the community’s website for further help and inspiration: wccm.org
Asked ‘what do you feel about beginning Lent?’, one person said he felt quite a joyful anticipation of engaging with it and expanding his spiritual horizons. The next person said he felt resistance to an ‘arbitrary’ period of time called a ‘liturgical season’. We are all in the same boat at the same time, traversing the same short distance and brief span of life that sometimes seem endless. Yet, we look out at the surrounding ocean, the distant horizon, the immediate weather, the sense of direction, in very different, very personal ways. And what we say now.. well, we may change our minds in an hour or two.
Thank God for diversity and human changeability. They make the boat-ride interesting and constantly challenge our tendency to complacency. Especially when we have fixed routines we tend to sleep-walk through them and so miss the best challenges of life. St Benedict says the monk’s life should be a continuous Lent. We should always be fresh, alert, ready for the right response. But as it’s hard to keep it up, the 40 days of Lent offer a special opportunity.
Liturgical seasons begin and end on specific days. All religious traditions have them in some form. They are linked to the seasons of the year which tend to ease their way in rather than come on a fixed day. The weather is changing, however, and maybe developing a sense of ‘sacred time’ as well as stressful chronological time would make us more actively aware of it. (The latest report of IPCC speaks of ‘an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership’.) ‘Lent’ in English means ‘spring’ or ‘March’. In Latin languages the word is ‘quaresima’ forty. So we have forty days to see Lent as a fixed time for spiritual awakening, starting now...
Traditionally it is composed of interior and external practices. You give up something especially if you feel you have grown unhealthily attached or dependent on it – chocolates (of course), dessert, alcohol or addiction to your smart phone. The point of these external practices is not to be painful but liberating. It usually hurts to be set free and we have to accept that when necessary. To balance this giving up you can also take on: extra reading, another meditation or being more consistent with the twice a day, doing something for others (preferably anonymously), practising kindness and thankfulness moments morning, midday and evening.
When I was a boy we were told it was a good thing to ‘offer something up’ when it was difficult or unpleasant. You could offer it up for the souls in purgatory for example. Before you scorn that, remember it was just trying to make you more other-centred. Today I would think of ‘offering up’ something for the suffering of Ukrainians. This opens a channel of consciousness between us and with them on the mysterious and mighty wavelength of compassion. Immeasurably, on that wavelength, there is a transfer of energy. But in any case, it would keep us alert and feelingly connected to what they are going through.
On March 26th we can join our Ukrainian meditators for an online sacrament of unified consciousness: a good practice interiorly and externally.
Lenten Reflections 2022