Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lent's 'Midwinter Spring'


Midwinter spring is its own season

Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,

Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.

- from ‘Little Gidding’ (No. 4 of “Four Quartets”) by T.S. Eliot

This Sunday forms the transition in the Lenten Season from the focus on our own need for repentance to Christ’s work of bringing about our reconciliation with God. Thus, it turns our attention from our sin (which can become a sort of obsession if we are not careful) towards God’s love. Like Eliot’s ‘Midwinter spring,” we have come to a moment that is between two seemingly opposite things: Ash Wednesday and Easter Day… yet this moment is but part of a reality of which both Holy Days partake.

Mid-Lent Sunday (also known by an entire raft of other names: Laetare, Mothering Sunday, Refreshment Sunday, The Sunday of the Five Loaves, &c.) is a brief respite from our usual Lenten observance; it is also an open invitation to take the season seriously if we have previously not. As St. John Chrysostom will remind us at the Easter Vigil (in his famous sermon), it is not too late to begin our preparation!

On a deeper level, though, today moves us from our sinfulness to the freedom and forgiveness we receive in Christ. The Gospel reading for today makes the choice very clear: either we are like the man born blind, who received the gift of sight from God as a gift, or we are like the Pharisees, whose love for God had become twisted into a bitterness that could ignore the miracle in their midst and instead condemn both the recipient and the giver – God in Christ.

Mere religion will side with the Pharisees. They were simply “following the rules.” True Christian discipleship will choose the riskier path of Jesus, though…because it brings freedom and the capacity to love. As has been said, humanity is always suspended between the law of this world and the love of God, and it must choose. Let the rest of Holy Lent be a conscious examination of our preferences, so that when we arrive at Holy Week, we will choose love and follow Christ because we know in our deepest selves there simply is no other way.

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