Hallo again to all.
Last week in this letter we wrote about the cycle of the church year. A goodly number of people sent us kind comments about it. One said that she thinks of the church year not as a circle, but as a helix, moving forward whilst going 'round. We liked that. Moving along a helix is always changing, yet always the same, which is how we think of the church.
Lent is preparation for Easterfor us just as it was for Jesus. Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, has said that 'Lent opens the door on a period of spring cleaning in preparation for Easter. What kind of preparation is appropriate for Lent? Or should we just junk it as incompatible with our busy lifestyles?'
The Times (London) recently asked 24 people about their discipline and reading for Lent and got 24 different answers. The idea of increased discipline for Lent can be forbidding. Just a few days ago we were told 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return' just as our great-great-grandfather was told 'Remember O Man that dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return'. And, knowing that we are dust, how can we muster the discipline of the most austere time of the year?
It is precisely at this moment that we are most thankful that we're Anglican. We turn around for a moment, look along the helix, not forward, but back. Those who came before us had the same Lent, the same problems, and the same need for discipline. If you look back far enough, all of them are indeed dust, but it's not hard to feel their approach to Lentin some mysterious way known only within the Communion of Saintsand to learn from it.
Balancing the need for change with the perpetuity of the past is part of the mystery of the church. For the church to survive, it must gracefully let go of some of the past (no matter how dear), embrace cheerfully some of the present (no matter how pedestrian), and bravely welcome the future (no matter how strange). But it must also keep some of the past, now and forever. Knowing with absolute certainty which parts are eternal and which parts are ephemeral can tax the abilities of mortalsand arguing which parts are which seems often to be an enormous source of conflict in the church today.
As long as the Anglican Communion has plenty of children, we are not terribly worried. Our own parish does, and today at coffee hour we overheard an exchange between two teenaged girls. One said, 'I'm going to give up my cell phone for Lent' and the other said, 'Awk; I could never do that. But I'm going to give up instant messenger and chat rooms for Lent'.
Try to think about a world, a hundred turns of the helix from now, in which that is tradition.
See you next week.
Last updated: 17 February