Shawna Atteberry

Writer, Teacher, Baker

Lent: Journeying thru the Hollows and Empty Spaces

This has been a time of reflection for me. Normally by this time in Lent, I am just ready for Easter to get here and be done and over with it. But not this year. This year I am not minding staying in the self-examination of Lent. I’ve journeyed through this Lent with Jan Richardson’s Garden of Hollows: Entering the Mysteries of Lent and Easter. It’s been a journey of acknowledging my hollows, my empty spaces, and the wounds that need healing. A Year of Loss and New Beginnings came out of this reflection. I needed to write about what happened last year. I needed to tell my side of the story. It was necessary for that wound to heal.

I have lived with hollows of depression, fear, anxiety, weakness, and procrastination. And it’s been okay. I haven’t gotten lost in them. They aren’t big canyons that I can never crawl out of. They are hollows, but there is an ascending side as well as descending. I have experienced a great deal of peace this month. It’s okay to admit to my problems and weaknesses. It’s okay to live with them and just let them be. It has been a time of letting go. Letting go of the demons that drive me that shouldn’t.

Not that the demons have gone any where. But their voices are not as loud. I’m not procrastinating as much. Fear is not freezing me as often. I’m having more ideas, and I am writing more. I’m exploring. I’m going to be taking some risks. It feels good.

This last week of Lent will be spent quietly. I plan on continuing daily prayer and centering prayer, letting myself breath, and allowing my hollows just to be. I plan on writing and posting, cooking and laundry, community time and solitude. And I’ll see where me and my hollows are on Easter.

RevGal Friday Five: Mid-Lent Check In

Sophia wrote: The pastor of my grad school parish once gave a fascinating reflection, at about this mid-point in the season, called “How to Survive the Mid-Lent Crisis”! As I recall, his main point was that by halfway through the season we have often found it very challenging to live up to our original plans….But, he suggested–on the analogy of the healing and reframing of our life plans that can happen during a mid-*life* crisis–that that can be even more fruitful.

So here’s an invitation to check in on the state of your spirit midway through “this joyful season where we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed” (Roman Missal). Hopefully there’s a good deal of grace, and not too much crisis, in your mid-Lenten experience!

1. Did you give up, or take on, anything special for Lent this year?

I am practicing centering prayer and writing on this blog everyday.

2. Have you been able to stay with your original plans, or has life gotten in the way?

I haven’t been able to practice centering prayer twice a day as I intended, but I am practicing it in the morning. I have a missed a day here and there blogging, but I’m doing much better than I thought I would.

3. Has God had any surprising blessings for you during this Lent?

I will be preaching for the first time at Grace Episcopal on Pentecost!

4. What is on your inner and/or outer agenda for the remainder of Lent and Holy Week?

To get up to practicing centering prayer twice a day and do more writing. I would like to have the book proposal for Career Women of the Bible done by the end of April. I would also like to sell some writing.

5. Where do you most long to see resurrection, in your life and/or in the world, this Easter?

With the depression I suffer from. It’s been bad this week, and I would love to live without that cloud hanging over me.

The Chanting Went Well

Instead of leading The Great Litany by myself, the music minister and I sang it together. It went very well, and I received compliments that I sounded good. I don’t mind chanting, but I think next time I want something shorter. About half-way through the litany, you think, “Good night this is long!” But all went well.

I will be doing some blog housekeeping this week. For those of you who have linked to my blog, I plan on updating my sidebar to include you and other wonderful blogs and sites I have found. I am also going to start going through past posts to correct the HTML code that didn’t come out right when My Hubby last updated my WordPress account.

I hope all you had a worshipful and restful day, and better weather than we’re having in Chicago.

The Great Litany

Tomorrow I will lead our church in chanting the Great Litany. Many Episcopal churches chant The Great Litany on the first Sunday in Lent. What is The Great Litany? Chantblog has the answer:

An intercessory prayer including various petitions that are said or sung by the leader, with fixed responses by the congregation. It was used as early as the fifth century in Rome. It was led by a deacon, with the collects led by a bishop or priest. The Litany was the first English language rite prepared by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. It was first published in 1544. Cranmer modified an earlier litany form by consolidating certain groups of petitions into single prayers with response. The Litany’s use in church processions was ordered by Henry VIII when England was at war with Scotland and France. It was printed as an appendix to the eucharist in the 1549 BCP [Book of Common Prayer]. The Litany was used in each of the three ordination rites of the 1550 ordinal, with a special petition and concluding collect. The 1552 BCP called for use of the Litany after the fixed collects of Morning Prayer on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The 1928 BCP allowed the Litany to be used after the fixed collects of Morning or Evening Prayer, or before the Eucharist, or separately. The 1928 BCP included a short Litany for Ordinations as an alternative to the Litany. The 1979 BCP titled the Litany “The Great Litany” (p. 148), distinguishing it from other litanies in the Prayer Book.

The Book of Common Prayer online has The Great Litany here. Chantblog has a Youtube video of The Great Litany chanted at St. Barnabas.

I will let you know how it goes. (Which reminds me I probably should run through it again before bed.)

Does you church do anything on the first Sunday of Lent to set the tone for the next 40 days?

Ash Wednesday: The Freedom of Ritual

Today was not a good day. In fact, I’ve been out of sorts most of this month. Mainly because I have not been writing as this blog makes very obvious. I really did not want to go to the Ash Wednesday service. I feel enough guilt and shame. I know that I “have sinned by my own fault. . .by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.” Especially the what I have left undone. Do I really need an additional reminder about what I should be doing that I’m not? Really? But I had to go: I was bringing bread for the soup and bread dinner after the service, and I knew I needed to be there.

I’m very glad I went. As we were praying the Litany of Penitence, I felt a great peace come over me, and I acknowledged that I was a human and that means that I am going to fail, make mistakes, and even choose outright rebellion to what God has called me to do, which is to say, sin. It was not only a peaceful, but humbling thing, to admit that “From dust I have come and to dust I will return”; to confess my sins with my fellow brothers and sisters and accept God’s forgiveness. It was also a recognition that I am not the only one falling short of God’s calling. We, as a community, have fallen short. I could feel the forgiveness not just for myself, but for our community, as prayed. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I can say yes to God. Tomorrow we can obey God and better build God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

I have decided what my Lenten disciplines will be this year: I am going to practice centering prayer, and I’m going to write in this blog. My 40 days of Lent will be spent in quiet with God and talking to you.

Also stop by Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka where Mark shared his Ash Wednesday experience. (And yes, you will find the translation for his blog name if you go and read.)

For those interested in praying the Daily Office, the Episcopal nuns of Mission St. Clare have everything you need including karaoke versions of chants and hymns. I also post Vespers Monday–Friday at Street Prophets.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (From The Book of Common Prayer.)

Related Posts:

Ash Wednesday Reflections
Lenten Disciplines: Fasting

Lenten Thoughts and Practices

Ash Wednesday Reflections

Today I read three wonderful articles on Ash Wednesday:

At The Episcopal Cafe Sam Candler reminds us that some of the most fertile and rich soil comes from ashes in Ashes and Wine:

But today, I propose another meaning for these ashes. Out of these ashes, these signs of our mortal nature, comes something else. Once we recognize our own responsibility for wrongdoing, once we acknowledge our mortal and dusty nature, the ashes also become a sign of fertility.

If we are truly repentant, and truly cleansed, and open to the reality of God around us, then we are also fertile, ready to give growth to greatness.

Out of seven years worth of ashes on the island of Madeira came one of the finest wines of that time. There is no way the wine could have been produced without the burning, without the ashes. In fact, it was the burning that cleared the ground in the first place.

Ash Wednesday and Lent are, likewise, the burning and clearing of our Christian lives. We enter a time for confession, for penitence, for realization of our earthly nature. But this is also a fertile day, a time for self-examination and self-preparation. Today is getting us ready for something.

In The Artful Ashes Jan Richardson shared what she discovered when she took a project where she learned to draw in charcoal (if you are not reading The Painted Prayerbook regularly, I highly recommend you subscribe to her feed):

Taking up a new medium, entering a different way of working, diving or tiptoeing into a new approach: all this can be complex, unsettling, disorienting, discombobulating. Launching into the unknown and untried confronts us with what is undeveloped within us. It compels us to see where we are not adept, where we lack skill, where we possess little gracefulness. Yet what may seem like inadequacy—as I felt in my early attempts with charcoal—becomes fantastic fodder for the creative process, and for life. Allowing ourselves to be present to the messiness provides an amazing way to sort through what is essential and to clear a path through the chaos. To borrow the words of the writer of the Psalm 51, the psalm for Ash Wednesday, it creates a clean heart within us.

Ash Wednesday beckons us to cross over the threshold into a season that’s all about working through the chaos to discover what is essential. The ashes that lead us into this season remind us where we have come from. They beckon us to consider what is most basic to us, what is elemental, what survives after all that is extraneous is burned away. With its images of ashes and wilderness, Lent challenges us to reflect on what we have filled our lives with, and to see if there are habits, practices, possessions, and ways of being that have accumulated, encroached, invaded, accreted, layer upon layer, becoming a pattern of chaos that threatens to insulate us and dull us to the presence of God.

I love to chant, and I recently discovered chantblog. For those of you who love to chant here are the Lauds and Vespers hymns for Ash Wednesday and Lent.

I have yet to settle on a Lenten discipline, although I am thinking of making more room for silence in my life. What are thinking about during this Lent? What needs to be added to your life? What could you do without?