I remember as a novice singing the words of the morning hymn every day : ‘the day is filled with splendour...” They rattled around I my memory like a jingle. One day it struck me that perhaps they actually meant something. They were not just a pious phrase repeated for centuries to keep the mind half-comatose, like spiritual koala bears munching on eucalyptus leaves.
Maybe the someone who wrote those words really felt that there was splendour filling each day whatever the emotional or geometric weather reading.
Etty Hillesum clearly saw this amid the dreary and degrading conditions of camp life. And, if we are not a little better able to understand and see it for ourselves as a result of our Lenten disciplines we should extend Lent until we can.
Every day, however stressed it is, whether it brings good news or repeats disappointments, is embedded with moments of silent eloquence, natural glory. It might be the dignified descent of a setting wintry sun, the bright effusion of colour in a red hibiscus, the shy appearance of white or pink magnolia blossom scenting its world like a lovely person becoming innocently aware of their own beauty for the first time. It might be the kind smile and graciousness of someone doing you a minor paid service, a flight attendant who is present to herself and her passengers, a policeman who walks a few steps with you to give you better directions, while their colleagues do their work with reluctance or bad grace.
The more of these individual splendid moments you see the more they join up. You realise that they are not isolated phenomena, supernova moments of dying stars, but appearances of the natural and universal order of things. This splendour actually is the underlying nature of reality.
The disciplines of Lent or the daily discipline of the mantra are a small price to pay for entry into this, the real world.
Laurence Freeman OSB