There is a country song entitled, “Live Like You Were Dying.” On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the Church presents us with a similar invitation, “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” These words of the Church are stark and they, like the song, remind us that we are going to die. When Tim McGraw, the author of the song, discovered that he was going to die he went skydiving and Rocky Mountain climbing. He also loved deeper, spoke sweeter and gave forgiveness he’d been denying. During Lent the Church’s invitation also calls for such a renewal of one’s life.
Regarding the renewal of my life, the odds are against my going sky diving but I will read, again, what St. Benedict writes in chapter 49 of the Holy Rule on the observance of Lent. “The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. Benedict encourages us to “add to the usual manner of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food and drink so that each of us will have something above the prescribed measure to offer to God with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” I have several practical ideas of how to wash away some of the negligences of my manner of living the monastic life and I will resolve to do them this Lent. As for adding to the usual measure of my service I will be on the lookout for circumstances that will call me to do just that.
In the past I have not looked forward to Lent as I do to Advent. But in the process of this writing, through a chat with a friend and the words of a country song, I have come to another resolution, again from the Rule of St. Benedict. I will offer my Lenten resolutions to God “…with the joy of the Holy Spirit” and I will “…look forward to Holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.” In Lent, as in Advent, the accent is on joy and longing. I resolve to keep that in mind. Sister Justina Franxman, OSB