Friday, March 23, 2012

lent, its almost over

I've been meaning for the past many weeks to blather about lent and what it looks like in a house full of small children next door to a church full of new Christians, many of whom have no desire whatsoever to be Anglican in a town fading into the gray but full of nominal Catholics. Well, actually, I don't really want to talk about the town and maybe not about the church. I really wanted to, you know, just put more vapid stuff on the internet.

Anyway, the church year is a wonderful thing to blog about. You can blog about your personal church year devotion, what you're doing as a family, or how your church celebrates. Its a vast and rich source of subject matter for the person casting abroad for something about which to write. Except for me. I never manage to write about it and mostly not to do any of it either. So, after many years of feeling terrible about doing very little to celebrate the church year with my young, horribly young family, I thought I'd tell you why we don't. There's got at least one other clergy family out there who doesn't have time and who feels bad about it. This is for you!

Why You May Not Need to make Lent a Beautiful Time for your Small Children
The church year, for those of you don't know what I'm talking about, is time organized around the life of Jesus. Everyone who celebrates Christmas and Easter celebrates the life of Jesus a little bit, but some of us do more. So right now we're in Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays which are ALWAYS feast days and therefore are days IN Lent, not days OF Lent--if you've given up chocolate for Lent, you can have it on Sunday because Sunday is a feast.) which recall both the 40 years the people of Israel spent in the wilderness before they went into the Promised Land, and the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted. Traditionally its a time to give something up in order to draw closer to God.

Let me also note that Lent is my favorite time of year. I love the scaled back austerity of Lent--no flowers on the altar, more somber music and some things, like the Lord's Prayer, said instead of sung etc. Just like I generally like Advent more that Christmas, I sort of like Lent more than Easter. I mean, I LOVE the Great Vigil of Easter, but it only takes me a day to be over the riot of Easter Flowers whereas I don't really get tired of the purple veils over all the crosses, (incidentally, I still have no idea what purpose the veils serve. Someone tell me!)

But underneath the somber austerity is a grinding mill of extra work. Lent into Holy Week is the busiest most intense time of the church year, more than Christmas by far, and the Extra Work at church.....I don't even know how to describe it. Well, let me try anyway.

This Lent, for example, we've added themed Saturdays of prayer culminating in a longer time of prayer stretching from Maundy Thursday through to Holy Saturday. It means changing the scripture hanging and writing a small reflection before 11am every Saturday and getting the room back in order. And then fussing around with the altar before getting on with the usual business of preparing for Sunday. And writing some new lessons for Sunday School, because there are gaps in the older years. And learning about all the stuff that needs to happen for the altar in Holy Week because the person in whose mind it all resides has been out with an egregious and terrifying injury (but is better! by the merciful grace of God). And scheduling people to serve during Holy Week. And divvying up the sermon writing. And trying to dye Easter eggs at some point, and taking on the daunting task of Easter Baskets. And discovering that we need more thurifers because one of them, meanly, isn't coming home from college for the weekend. And seriously thinking of a way to dress up our very plain and boring dalmatics. And remembering that on Palm Sunday the Sunday Schools join for a celebration of the Last Supper. I could go on like this for a few more paragraphs.

And in all this busyness, the people who fall through the cracks, especially in Holy Week, are the children. They sometimes end up with a baby sitter every night. They have to play at church for hours while we figure out the lighting for the Vigil. They have to watch Shaun the Sheep while extra sermons are written or I go on a long scavenge for Six Equal Easter baskets. By Easter Monday we are all exhausted and lonely for each other and teary and just generally wrung out.

The great sacrifice, the great fast, for us, in Lent, is time with each other.

And so we don't give up chocolate. We don't go meatless, at all, for any day of the week. We don't add extra burdens of Lovely Lenten Prayer and Devotionals. We don't try to read through a whole book of the bible or remember to pray for the missionaries of the world. We don't even light a candle at dinner time. We don't do anything extra. We do read as much Narnia as possible. And cling insanely and desperately to our school routine.

And we look forward to the time of feasting with each other through the whole season of Easter.
And this year I rejoice that two of my herd are slated to be on the altar during Holy Week. And if I can just remember to make them practice the piano, someday they'll hopefully be playing the music and reading the lessons. But in the meantime, we take the fast God gives us at the time he gives it.


At A Hen's Pace said...

Anne, you inspired me to blog today on a similar theme!

I can very much relate! ;)

Annie said...

I'm going to try to get through the Horrible and Terrible Blogger Robot-Detector (though Blogger has decided I am a robot no matter what I put in the id field below) because I want to say this:
YOU ARE IN A FAST whether you seek it or not. Being a pastor IS a fast. The pastors I know and hold dear are forced to fast from intimate friendships, because they are either busy every night of the week, or have to remain pastorly to their friends because they're in the same church. They fast from personal time, and expressing many of their own opinions, so as not to cause a stumbling block for the sheep around them. They fast from the silly indulgences I take for granted, because if they were to use their tax refund on a weekend away, somene on the finance committee would assume they had stolen it from the collection plate. Even though the pastor's family is the only one tithing in the church.
Phew. Maybe this should have been anonymous anyway.
Anyhow, thank you for this, and give yourself a double-dose of grace today. You are in a state of extra-fasting (soon to be doubled or fourpled during Holy Week) and then you can maybe rest after Easter and eat egg salad sandwiches and thank God you made it through.
Hang in there. The Lord is near.

Anonymous said...

Good words - and encouraging to a fellow pastor's wife. Thanks for sharing.

it's margaret said...

Anne --I do read your blog, and I love your wit and humor, angst, struggle and most of all your honesty. We are so very different, so I have never commented --but, I can't resist an answer as to why the veils during Lent. The veils are not just to cover crosses --but to cover any ornamental and high-value precious metal, stones, gems etc. which may be in the sanctuary. The veils are a sign that we fast even from our gew-gaws --and hence why many churches switch from silver/gold chalices and patens to pewter or ceramic during Lent.

And, yes --I truly understand your Lenten & Holy Week discipline. Amen!

God bless you in every way.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, those who follow the Roman tradition in some form or other veil crosses, pictures, and statues on Passion Sunday and they remain veiled until the arrival of Easter. In Roman services, before the first Evensong of Passion Sunday‑all crosses, pictures, and Images in the church (including, if practically possible, the great rood) are covered with opaque purple veils. These veils, which must not be transparent, nor bear any device or symbol, are not removed for any festival, however high in rank, which may occur during Passion week; the processional cross, however, is unveiled for the procession on Palm Sunday. Some Anglican churches, at the festal Mass, on Maundy Thursday, the veil on the cross on the high altar (but no other cross) is white; and also on Good Friday that of this same cross is sometimes black, (though the Roman rite itself seems to require that the altar cross and candles be taken away and the altar be left totally bare on Good Friday). Stations of the Cross are not veiled. According to a book entitled, THE RITUAL REASON WHY, "The spirit of the Passiontide veiling seems to be that the Church would draw off our attention from everything but Him whose suffering [passion] she is commemorating, bidding us 'consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners.' It is also symbolical of the hiding of our Lord's glory during His earthly life, and especially during His ignominious and bitter Passion."
Hope this information is helpful!

Jessica Snell said...

Um, yep, I can see why your children don't need to do anything extra. You convinced me! (Actually, I appreciate the insight into the life of a pastoring family.)

Anonymous said...

But would you please write about this -- I've been meaning for the past many weeks to blather about lent and what it looks like in a house full of small children next door to a church full of new Christians, many of whom have no desire whatsoever to be Anglican in a town fading into the gray but full of nominal Catholics. -- after Easter?

What, you mean this isn't like a diner where I can order up my blog posts?! You could call it Anglicans on a Raft.


Heather near Atlanta, who has her own tale of woe in the Episcopal diaspora to tell someday

R said...

Meanwhile it's actually occurred to me early this year that I should be on the hunt for white eggs to dye. Might even find some this year! The stores only ever carry brown, but on the up side they do stock Quail eggs, which are amazingly beautiful in their own right. I keep meaning to cook and eat them, but they're just so pretty......(got them for my birthday, along with a cherry tree!)

Miss you all! They don't veil at the church here, makes me so sad. Also the new priest, (not the new-new priest, & they still need 1 more to reach quota so apply! ;) ) keeps blogging about the 'emergent church' and I am generally clueless as to what he means exactly by that.