This is my 7th Lent as a Christian, and every year I am given a gift from our Lord. And every year so far it has been some kind of painful. It isn't easy spending time in the desert. No. Not at all.
I was having lunch with my spiritual director this week and remembered something from my days as a student of tarot. In the ancient Jewish tradition of the Tree of Life, there is one branch that has both Mercy and Severity.
For me, Lent is both of those things. Severe and Merciful.
Holy Week is fast approaching and this year I have chosen to not organize the overnight vigil at Grace Church. Every year since I have been there I have accepted the task of the vigil... writing a newsletter article explaining what it is, putting out sign up sheets, chasing people to try and fill up the time slots until morning. And then, when there were vast spaces of time left unfilled, I would sit in the church, sometimes alone, sometimes with someone else, often for hours at a time. One year I was there for 5 hours. Last year, the day after the flood destroyed our shop, I was there from midnight until 3am. Then Nguyen relieved me and sat for the rest of the night.
I am not complaining. I love the vigil. It has been, for me, a highpoint of my year. Every year I have something to bring to the altar. A death. A near death. A miraculous recovery. A loss. I lay them at our Lord's feet and ask his forgiveness. I lay myself at his feet at the base of the big stone altar and spend hours in his presence. One year the priest left the chalice uncovered and the heady fragrance of the sacramental wine wafted through the tiny chapel. I was sitting on the cold stone floor with the smell of gardens and burning wax and wine. It was incredible.
But this year, I am not up for organizing much of anything. This year I will be Mary and find a place to just sit at his feet and adore him for awhile. I will let someone else be Martha this year.