Unless a seed falls into the earth and dies
it remains a single seed,
but if it dies it bears much fruit.
Lent is a season of repentance, letting go of ourselves, falling and dying into the soil of God, allowing the husk of ourselves to break open in preparation for new life sprouting forth at Easter. It’s a spring season: the name “Lent” comes from the Old English “lengthen” as days lengthen in spring; and the date of Good Friday is always the first Friday after the first full moon of spring. Lent helps us walk through the season as winter gives way to spring.
At least in the northern hemisphere. But I’m thinking of my friends in the global South for whom this is the end of summer, walking down the long incline into fall. Maybe because I’m retiring in a few months (at the Southern winter solstice) I’m entering this Lent with those folks for whom this is fall, not spring. It’s a season of letting go, a time of looking back and giving thanks, counting the harvest and taking stock, a time of quieting and going inward. Spring will come. But this is not the time for that. First we dig up gardens, put things to sleep, and put an end to the flurry of our fruitfulness. We fast from all those summer activities, and settle. We prepare for the long death of winter (in my northern habitat, the death is long).
Entering into Lent with an autumn spirit invites me to really contemplate my mortality, to face death without looking away over its shoulder toward spring. It asks for more self-surrender than merely holding my breath. The grave is deeper. It invites me to be a bulb that’s planted in the fall with faith that a whole winter will pass before I re-appear and blossom. It invites me to see sin not as being evil but as hanging on too tight.
I watch my leaves fall. I watch my days shrink. I feel the darkness enwrap me. I am a seed going down into the night of earth. I trust God. I thank the Holy One for the autumnal gift of Lent.
March 2, 2020