For various reasons I haven’t been writing my usual Lenten series this year and here we are in week 3 of the season. I’m not attempting to make a late start with this message, simply sharing a thought that has been with me this time around: less is more.
For me, Lent is one part of the Christian expression of a beautiful vision of our world, its mystery and enchantment, and our place within it. The central theme of Lent is one of ‘giving something up’ although I have also heard people speak of ‘taking something up’. It seems to me that we need someone or something, some voice, or ritual, or season to help us make choices for the lesser rather than the greater.
Mostly, our lives are crammed with too many tasks, objects, personal development projects, relationships, goals and so on. People now employ specialist consultants to help them to de-clutter, such is the chronic condition of our obsessive compulsion to do, or own or be just one more thing (and then another, oh, and that one too, and yes, look over there … ).
How nice to be part of a faith tradition that encourages us to enter a season of giving something up. Our gestures of sacrifice, at least mine, are fragile and seem the poorest possible shadows of what the great saints of our tradition have gone without in the pursuit and course of the beautiful vision, the truly attractive life. But even a small gesture of resistance against the corporate compulsion for mindless and endless accumulation, ‘growth’ and increase can seem like a wonderful triumph.
Sometimes our bodies need less of something, often it’s our egos that could do with a rest, usually both body and psyche will appreciate the surprising benefits of the developing discipline of saying ‘no’ to one thing to enable ‘yes’ to another. Space and rest are incubators for the soul, that beautiful, secret part of us that has been infused with the nature of the Divine.
I leave you with one small expression of this in the words of theologian, Karl Rahner:
[our] reality is a picture of heaped-up activities, where the trivial, jostles the less trivial, and the less trivial elbows the important things, and there is no unity of design, nor any intensity of single, concentrated purpose … a [person] may turn from it all; and immediately the noise of his activities sinks to silence as, in a spirit of reverence and love, [she] speaks to God in prayer. With one swift upward glance of the soul, he has got as near as his finite nature will allow … to that sublime fusion of all … activities into one glowing point of heat and of light (Happiness through prayer).
Dr Phil Daughtry
Head of School, Humanities and Social Sciences