top of page
Week 4.jpeg

FRIDAY OF LENT WEEK 4 

 
It is often said that spiritual teachings in all traditions urge us to develop an indifferent attitude to happiness or unhappiness. This reflects the teaching of Jesus that the sun of divine benevolence shines equally on good and bad alike. Does this mean we should aim to have no preference? Or, more realistically, that we should accept the rough and the smooth and take the rough graciously without complaint. Buddhist teachings emphasise the danger of clinging to any one side of experience because we then bounce between aversion and possessiveness. Yet Buddhists are not indifferent either. They believe in reducing suffering and in a state beyond it which we should aspire to. Similarly, the Gospel teaches us to ‘consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed in us’ (Rom 8:18).
 
The problem in assuming that we should be equally happy with suffering or joy is that it is unrealistic. It is not true to human nature or to the meaning of suffering. It is not detachment, more like estrangement. The true wisdom of the spiritual traditions is to avoid what suffering we can avoid and graciously accept what we cannot with the confidence that suffering is not meaningless. Thus we are brought closer to the source of joy within ourselves that is reflected in all natural cycles.
 
One test of this is the arrival of the entrancing season of Spring in the Northern hemisphere. I can see it happening today as I look out of the window as I write this at Bonnevaux. Senses awake, forgotten scents, new colours and textures return, joy-filled daffodils and the green wash you can hardly see in the bare trees emerging from their seasonal death. We have had a grey, wet winter with several of the extreme variations that are characteristic effects of climate change everywhere. Nevertheless, thank God and His manifestation in the beauty of the world, that the timed wheel of the seasons is still turning.
 
Another simple test is our preference for life over death even when, like Jesus in Gethsemane, we accept the painful destiny of death as part of life. The love of life transforms this destiny. Because it is so deeply rooted, it touches in us the core of eternal life free from the cycle of death and rebirth within which we grow but which we also transcend.
 
Looking down the Bonnevaux valley today, I can authoritatively say that Spring is still spring. Few are they who would say they don’t prefer it to winter. We are time travellers passing through a cycle of spirals, measured by the sun and moon, towards the solitary source where all are at home. Through each revolution and repetition we come deeper into resurrection, the union of opposites where what we once just glimpsed is proved real.
 
Those who realise Brahman live in joy
And go beyond death. Indeed
They go beyond death.
OM shanti shanti shanti
(Aitareya Upanishad)

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2024
bottom of page