On Ash Wednesday I preached about Truth Telling, Mindfulness, and Transformation. My point was that the practices of speaking the truth about ourselves to ourselves coupled with mindfulness lead us toward transformation. These are actually year round practices, but the penitential season of Lent is an especially fruitful time for these efforts. See, lent is a journey. We start with Ash Wednesday where we confess/remember how far we are from God, what keeps us separated from communion with God and community with each other. Then we journey through prayer and fasting toward Holy Week. On palm sunday we march like Jesus into Jerusalem, and then with the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil) we identify with Christ by liturgically reenacting his last days. Then we are unified in the Resurrection through the first Eucharist of Easter at the Great Vigil. The purpose of lent is transformation, from separation to unity with God.
During the Ash Wednesday liturgy the Gospel reading is Jesus warning his disciples not to disfigure their faces when they pray. It it beyond hipster level irony that we use this Gospel on the same day we mark each other with ashes. Nonetheless, the readings warn us against practices of piety just for show. It should be overtly clear to us that what we take on in lent should aid our transformation.
This lent, for my lenten discipline I have been composing Anglican Chants to the psalms. This process of sitting with the each psalm, beginning with number 1 with psalm 40 as the goal, and then creatively responding to it has been both prayerful and transforming for me. Truth be told, I have been in a pretty dark place for over a year now. I have been blessed to have a supportive wife, a great therapist, and a patient congregation as I have worked through this. I have seen more progress however in these first couple of weeks of lent then I have in the last year. I believe it is from sitting with these psalms. The emotions are so raw, and yet the psalms are essentially ancient, very ancient prayers. I have heard the book of psalms called Jesus’ prayer book. Sitting with the wrought emotions of the psalms has begun to transform some my wrought emotion into a better head space. Many of the material and actual problems still remain to be solved, but my mindset is changing. I can now address the external issues with a healthier mind and with faith.
Lent is about transformation from the darkness of separation and sin into the light of communion with God. Disciplines such as telling the truth and mindfulness are righteous if and only if they lead us toward transformation, toward deeper communion with God. Otherwise they are just self serving and not life giving.