Ordinary time is over and now we are presented with a different, sacred time: one of fasting, reflection and penance. This period of Lent mirrors the forty days Christ spent in the desert connecting deeply with the Father. We can do the same, in our own location.
With eyes closed, breath slowed, I journey inward to another place:
The desert here is an area of deep quiet – no one is there to judge or distract. It is where the first Christians went when the world was too much with them; they packed their small sacks, said good-bye and walked out into the solitude because they only wanted God, nothing else. How can I walk with them? How can I join them, join in their deep concentration in prayer?
The wind whips the sand around and in my eyes, despite the scarf draped. There are no trees, which makes me uneasy, as they are so often my lodestar in the silence. As I walk, I see a small hut ahead and this, my destination, is poor and hollow. The desert around it is a moaning wasteland and here I will enter into my prayer of emptiness, Centering Prayer. What I see around me is what my mind hopes to be in prayer – hollow, unremarkable. Here in this gray, flat land, the Lord will spot that empty place in me and whirl ’round and pour His spirit in the fallow, abandoned cavern.
There is a poem by T.S. Eliot called “Ash Wednesday.” It will take all of Lent to poke through the roots of its wisdom but these lines speak to me now: “Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still.” Lenten guides always seem to come when I need them.