Lent Daily Reflections 2013

Wednesday of Lent Week 1

Children need them. We all form them constantly anew when circumstances change. They are a source of security and confidence in life. But we all want to escape them and be free – something we think we do in a controlled way in what we call holidays.

Where would we be without habits? At the mental level they give psychological stability (though often at the cost of feeling that we are trapped). Psychologically we repeat mental habits and patterns ad nauseam. We very rarely actually think because we are merely repeating old routines of emotional response dressed up as thought.

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Tuesday of Lent Week 1

When I was in India recently one of our guides remarked that in addition to his knowledge of the place we were visiting he and his family were astrologers. It was not long before people were quietly approaching him and asking for their palms to be read. And there was the usual response – ‘amazing how he knows...’ etc.

It’s hard to deny ways of satisfying the curiosity we all have about our future and ourselves. Whatever you believe about the realism of this kind of knowledge, the curiosity is insatiable - and can easily become addictive.

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Monday of Lent Week 1

The biblical companion for Lent is traditionally the Book of Exodus. It tells the story – or rather the founding myth – of the Israelites’ escape from their oppression in Egypt. Historical records don’t back up the literal story but it is one of the great meta-narratives of humanity. A different kind of truth.

In the minds of the spiritual teachers of the tradition it became an allegory of the soul’s journey from the small self to the true self. In the small self world we are oppressed by our own compulsions and fears. We are our own prison.

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First Sunday of Lent

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry.

The Christian forty days of Lent mirror the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, after his Baptism and before going public with his dangerous teaching. The triple temptations of the ego – pride, sensuality and power come at the end of his fasting - when he was hungry.

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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

The third kind of practice that both expresses and deepens meditation during Lent – Giving.

True giving is a very rare achievement. Usually we give with invisible strings attached. We may be expecting something in return – another gift, recognition, reward, gratitude – or just enjoying the feeling that we are generous and nice people.

If we see we aren’t getting the reward we feel is our due we become hurt or resentful.


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Friday after Ash Wednesday

The second kind of daily practice for Lent is to reduce or give up something. 

Meditation is – as the word itself suggests – a middle way between extremes. The Buddha tried extreme ways to enlightenment and failed. St Benedict inspired a style of life that could be described as moderation in all things except moderation.

The Tao by definition is a middle way. This is the ‘narrow way that leads to life’ that Jesus taught. 

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Thursday after Ash Wednesday

The first practice for Lent – to strengthen or initiate a good habit. 

If you don’t meditate regularly, today is a propitious day to start. If you already meditate imagine that you are starting all over again. As the medieval mystics used to say – you know nothing, you want nothing, you have nothing.  We meditate, as John Main said, without demands or expectations. 

From the outset, then, there is an exhilarating glimpse of true freedom.


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Ash Wednesday

At a monastery I visited recently there is a successful month-long programme of recovery for drug addicts. I was struck by the vow they take at the beginning of their treatment. It is literally a vow to ‘truth’.

It implies a commitment to go the whole course and not give up. Or – such is human nature – to start again if they do give up. This vow can be taken in the name of their own faith or to the universe. In whatever formula it is an act of trust in themselves, their own depth and transcendent dimension, and so in their capacity to be whole.

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