My friend and teacher Jennifer Louden (see her amazing work at http://www.jenniferlouden.com) often tells retreatants that they may feel tempted to begin to “check out” toward the end of a retreat experience. I have experienced this myself many times in different contexts: beginning to mentally move into the “next thing” while an event is still unfolding, thinking of what to say next in a conversation rather than listening to who is speaking, thinking about my grocery list near the end of a TV program… Jennifer counsels her retreatants to “not leave themselves” and to stay with their experience of being on retreat until the retreat is over. This is important counsel and helpful encouragement at this stage in the season of Lent for many of us.
A week from tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday. In many Christian traditions, this begins the most sacred time of the liturgical year, the Triduum. Three liturgical experiences–Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Great Vigil of Easter–all connect as one service, one worship experience. Those of us who are drawn to practice being pilgrims will follow the thread of the Triduum, being present to the events in the final days of Jesus’ life before and during his death and resurrection. There is great power in these experiences and we are given the opportunity to ponder and pray through the meanings of death and rebirth in our own lives and in our world.
But today, and all the next seven days, it is still Lent. Only a few more days until the celebration of the solemn and sacred Triduum mysteries in the Christian tradition–but the time is not here yet. Especially for clergy or clergy families or church leaders, it can be very tempting to leap ahead a week and give up this last week of Lent in exchange for anticipating or planning Easter and its celebration. Yet, isn’t there something important about being patient and seeing this season of Lent through till its end? How many times have I learned that the most surprising things I discover arrive at the very end, or almost at the very end, of any experience? Missing these surprises is the risk we take when we lean too far into the future.
I would like to suggest that, over these next few days, maybe we can breathe a little more deeply into the desert space that is the season of Lent. Maybe we can sit still in the silence of our own hearts and listen for the Holy One. Whether we have “given up” something for Lent or have practiced “prayer, fasting, and almsgiving” or have just done our best to keep our boat afloat, there are still a few more days to visit the deep corners of our heart and to keep company with our spirit.
If we can find time and space to be still over the next few days, even for a little while, we can know the grace of being present to what is. We can find our way back to the moment that is now (which is of course the only moment that we have).
Let us wait with patience and tenderness; let us not forget to visit our own hearts during these last days of this gift we have been given, the season of Lent. Let us continue to hold our world and those we love in our prayer and let us continue to await resurrection in hope.