By Elena Fischer, Merry Lea Associate Director of Communications and Marketing
This week’s theme: From certainty to openness
I appreciate the reframing of Lent not as a time of self-denial, but a time for redirection. Lent requires investigating ourselves to know what to turn from and toward: turning inward to expand beyond the self is far from a denial. …But aren’t we to move from self-preoccupation and toward love for others in Lent?
How do we make sense of this contradiction? How do we promote light (and spring!) without distinguishing the value of darkness (and winter): a place where we are often met with cautious hope, apprehensive anticipation and fullness once mystery is revealed. God holds both.
I value hospitality as a lens for understanding this process from certainty to openness.
As we know, hospitality is a two-way street as hosts and guests open themselves up to receive new relationships, insights or other gifts. But it also encompasses being good hosts to ourselves and all that we embody. It requires that we challenge ourselves to investigate our biases, as well as give ourselves grace when we’ve reached our limits.
This poem by Rainer Maria Rilke from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God speaks of this dynamic (and contradictory?) form of hospitality.
“She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth—
it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration
where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it’s you she receives.
You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.”
Lent is not just a time of emptying, but making space to be filled anew. We cast out the loud-mouthed distractions to face the empty halls so that we can find a partner in God for our loneliness and our celebrations.
Similarly, we must face the empty tomb to make way for a new movement…
Mary Magdalene initially doesn’t go inside the tomb. Cracked open, she is afraid to look into its certain depths. Our certainty stops us from looking into the caverns (or lonely halls) of our deepest hurts and doubts. But when Mary is at her most vulnerable, weeping, she looks. And she is rewarded by the appearance of the two angels and later Jesus himself.
But one question remains for me: why did Mary get to see Jesus when she was so certain he was dead and gone? I like to think that despite our doubts, our missteps, we are worthy of redemption. Our humanity is worthy of grace even in its contradictions.
Especially in these uncertain times, it can be rewarding, fun and hard to reconcile ill-matched threads and weave them gratefully. How do you weave threads of hospitality with physical distancing together and still clothe our community in a spirit of welcoming? We can’t be certain the cloth won’t be messy, but the goodness lies not in the threads themselves, rather in the act of weaving them together. The kingdom of God is not one of passivity, but action: being open to the unknown of what path is being woven.
May we embrace the contradictions of Lent to encompass a hospitality of both self and others. May we enjoy this period of stretching, holding, mourning, setting boundaries and letting go. May we join the movement toward love that is resoundingly cracked open as we face the empty halls and the empty tomb honestly. And may we learn to celebrate this unexpected becoming with God as the partner in our joyfulness.