Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Am I the only one procrastinating on choosing a Lenten discipline? To be honest, I’ve been procrastinating on writing this article most of the day. I tweeted that I was going to write this blog post around 11:30 this morning, and I’m just now starting it at almost 6:00 p.m. I figured I wasn’t the only one dragging my feet on choosing something to do or give up for Lent, so here are a few of things I’ve thought of.
Lectio Divina means divine reading. It is a slow meditative reading of a passage of the Bible or a spiritual book. There are three movements of lectio divina: meditation (meditatio), prayer (oratio), and contemplation (contemplatio).
- Meditation/meditatio: Read the passage three times out loud, slowly. The first time simply read through. The second time be aware of any words that pop out at you. The third time read until you reach the place that spoke to you on the second reading. Ask yourself: Why does this stand out? What is it saying to me? Why is the Spirit bringing this to my attention? Mull it over.
- Prayer/oratio: Take whatever you find to Godde in prayer. Whether it’s gratitude, sorrow, joy, or repentance, pray about what the passage has said to you, and your response to it.
- Contemplation/contemplatio: Choose a word from your reading or prayer that best expresses your experience during meditation and prayer. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Spend a few minutes in silence, listening to Godde. If your mind wanders silently say the word you chose.
- If you want, journal your lectio experience.
Online resource: Garden of Grace
The Daily Examen
The Daily Examen is a thoughtful look at the day to see how we saw and responded to Godde’s grace through what we did, our responses to the people we met though the day, and our emotions. IgnatianSpiritality.com says
The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern [God’s] direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.
Here is one way of practicing the Daily Examen from Ignatian Sprituality:
- Become aware of God’s presence.
- Review the day with gratitude.
- Pay attention to your emotions.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
- Look toward tomorrow.
IgnatianSpiritality.com has many different examens listed at their site.
The Daily Office
The Daily Office is praying through the day. Prayers are said in the Morning, at Noon, in the Evening, and at Night (before bed). In the longer offices of Morning and Evening Prayer two or three psalms are said or chanted, one or two passages of Scripture are read, then there is time for prayers. In the shorter offices of Noon and Night (or Compline) a short psalm or a portion of a psalm is read or chanted and two or three verses of Scripture are read before prayers.
Two places you can pray the Daily Office online are at The Online Book of Common Prayer (click Daily Office on the menu) and Mission St. Clare. Mission St. Clare has the hymns in each office in karaoke so you can sing along. Fun!
If you’re like me and can’t pray on the computer, you can order the Book of Common Prayer* from Amazon, along with Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours.* If you want a Daily Office that is gender inclusive, The St. Helena Breviary: Personal Edition* is wonderful.
Hospitality is one of the bedrocks of Christianity. Jesus liked to eat with people (especially people he wasn’t supposed to eat with) a lot. Jesus instituted Communion during the family meal and celebration of Passover. Early Christians gathered together to eat and share their resources with one another. Early in our history we started feeding people who couldn’t feed themselves. One of the most basic practices of Christians is feeding each other and feeding other people. I know, I know, a lot of people fast or give up a certain food group for Lent, but giving up food has never been a spiritual discipline for me. Probably because I grew up with the skinnier-is-better and the “Diet! Diet! Diet!” culture, I just cannot consider giving up food to be a spiritual discipline (also my birthday always falls during Lent, and I’m eating my meat and cake!). If fasting is your thing, then go for it. However, I do make a suggestion: put aside the money you saved not buying sweets, pop, or meat, and at the end of Lent, give the money to a food pantry or homeless shelter. This is a personal preference: I much prefer to add something than just give up something for Lent.
Back to hospitality and food. If, like me, you like to feed people and feel it’s an important part of your spirituality here are two ways to practice hospitality during Lent:
- Invite friends and family over for meals at your home. Decide how many times you want to provide hospitality during Lent. Then start meal planning and inviting.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry to help feed the hungry people in your community. Provide hospitality to those who need it the most.
A last resource that has all of these disciplines plus more is Marjorie J. Thompson’s Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life.* It’s a good resource that you will go back to again and again.
I hope this helps you in deciding a discipline to bring you closer to Godde during Lent. Do you have anything to add to the list? What are thinking of giving up or adding for Lent? I’m leaning toward Lectio Divina myself. It’s been a long time since I practiced it, and it has always been one of my favorites.