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Spirituality in Season: Growing Through the Christian Year – Ross Thompson

May 8, 2013

Lots of ideas for liturgies, rituals and reflection for each season of the liturgicalSIS year, particularly useful for those for whom such observances are new but who don’t want to follow slavishly what other denominations du but who want to explore, to pick and mix.

People from my tradition are apt to stress ‘liturgical correctness’ but we should rejoice that Christians from other traditions have discovered the riches of our out tradition and want to play with our toys. Ashes at the start of Lent, candles at Candlemas, Asperges etc – all of these were to be encountered only in ‘extreme’ anglo catholic churches. Now, you can find them in, e.g. Methodist churches – good.

Good bits:

In Lent we choose to go against our compulsion not because its object is bad but because the way we tend to pursue it may leave no room for freedom.

…..the knowledge-fixated person resolving to read yet more books, the compassion junkie resolving to find yet more people to swamp. Lent is not about doing more good deeds to deserve a better Easter, but about changing our relation to the good things of our life. Giving up compulsively doing those things, however good they are in themselves, may give us and others space in which to change and grow.

For that reason I have often suggested that the Church community give up for Lent the ‘goodies’ it is addicted to. These days many churches seem to be addicted to being busy, or rather, to talking about being busy, or ‘doing business’. They have come to share society’s obsession with five-year plans, and making mission statements and defining objectives to be written down in a book — or on a poster — and then forgotten. So how about giving up meetings for Lent: business meetings, church councils and the like? When this is suggested in a parish, it may generate at first that special kind of panic that arises whenever it is suggested that we go against a compulsion. But the time released — for prayer, for study, for charitable works, or simply for doing nothing and giving ourselves time to be ourselves — can be amply rewarded. In this way, giving up meetings for Lent can soon become part of sacred tradition! Or so I have found.

When we give up things in this way — food or meetings or our prime compulsion, whatever it is — we are ‘ashing’ them, marking them with the sign of death. It is as if we are saying to these things, ‘pleasure, perfection, business, whatever you are, from death you come and to death you shall return. So far I have always been pursuing you under the sign of death, through the fear of death, out of the desire to make of myself something that will not die. I consign you and myself and this desire of mine to be death-free, to death. I let you go, so that the next time we meet it will be on the other side of death, in the place of freedom to which Christ’s resurrection brings us, where these fears of death, and this building of a self and a world out of death, will be no more.’

H. A. Williams puts the matter starkly: ‘Christ, our Creator, redeems us first by his wrath. The wrath of God is his refusal to allow us to rest until we have become fully what we are.’ That is why the land of our redemption needs to be fierce.

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