Lord Jesus, Sun of righteousness, shine in our hearts, we pray;
dispel the gloom that shades our minds and be to us as day.
And it goes on:
Give guidance to our wandering ways, forgive us, Lord, our sin;
restore us by your loving care to peace and joy within.
The Hymnal 1982, p. 144
These words were first penned in Latin by an anonymous author and in the 19th century were set to accompany Harold Darke’s melody Cornhill. Later in that century, Anne LeCroy translated them to English, and her poetry seems to capture the intention of their author—beauty, lilt, and pace that engages my mind.
I say engagement, but that might be better read as formation. Poetry does its work by getting inside you and working on you. It is memorable and has a way of latching on to neuro-synapses, and then riding them through our brain, bouncing around like pellets in a rock tumbler, made to smooth stone. Lent is the season when we seek, intentionally, to rub smooth(er) the rough places in our relationship with God.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the journey. It is a day when we gather at church and present ourselves to God as carbon blobs, rocky ones at that, entirely dependent on God for life—“remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 265). These are the words that mark this day. They are words that launch us into the season of Lent. They are words that, to my mind, complement Jesus when he said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “God is able from these stones to raise up children of Abraham.” He goes on to say: “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the tree; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 3:9-10).
We wonder in Lent about the ax and our roots. We reflect on the fruit we produce, and how it is eaten, shared, or left to rot.
I opened with poetry, taken from a hymn, to suggest that you memorize a poem or a hymn, as a spiritual exercise this Lent and as a way of further forming and transforming your heart and mind. Maybe write a poem that captures the lilt and pace of your life. Set it in the context of what God has done for you, by giving you life, and by introducing you to the kingdom of heaven through the words and modeling of Jesus. And add to it the truth that you (we) all fall so short of what God had in mind for each of our lives. Think on these things. Finally, remember God’s love for you; remember that this love is the reason you exist and the hope of your existence.
My prayer is that you have a holy season of Lent.
Peace upon your soul.