It is almost a year since the first COVID restrictions were introduced in Ireland and we are facing into a second Lent and Holy Week under this COVID cloud. Despite this, and perhaps because of it, our celebration of Lent and Easter this year become even more important. We need the hope and promise of Easter and we need the renewing energy of Holy Lent. Nothing can take this from us and we can engage with our Lenten journey wherever we may be.
For some of us our present circumstances of isolation might mean that this is the very first time we have really heard the call to conversion, the call to turn towards God. For most of us, Ash Wednesday brings with it memories of our failed attempts from past Lenten journeys, our failed resolutions and broken promises. Most of us know very well what T. S. Eliot said, “Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow.” It is here, in the shadow, that we find the ashes of our own lives and the Lord gives us the courage to begin again.
Lent is not a season for navel gazing, or feeling sorry for oneself. Lent is the great season of hope. Lent is no season for cultivating guilt, for it is the season for optimism. Just as the earth itself is starting to rejuvenate out of the ashes of its winter, so Lent is inviting us to become a pilgrim people, on a journey to Holy Easter. This is our hope and our destination.
Lent is about facing up to reality. In the words of St Isaac the Syrian, “The one who knows their own sin is higher than the one who resurrects the dead in their prayers. The one who is granted the gift of seeing themselves is superior to the one who has the gift of seeing angels.”
I wish all of you and your loved ones every blessing in this Holy Season of Lent.
Brendan Coffey OSB