The February garden is a sacred place. After the rubble and debris of Autumn’s first frost are cleared away, there falls a deep, expectant silence. What appears barren holds the promise of new life. The parallels to our liturgical year are rich and striking. As we approach Lent, there is a process of stripping bare. We rid our lives of unnecessary entanglements and distractions and withdraw from a world that glorifies activity and self-gratification.
In our chaotic culture, times of rest and preparation are undervalued if not disdained. We have an obsession with the overt. I remember when I first came to this realization I was in my first year of medical school. Already, I had to start thinking of ways to build my resume for residency applications. At the time I was voraciously reading books on theology and spirituality. I hungered for truth and community, yet the time spent cultivating character, virtue, and relationship was not something that could be placed on a list of achievements. There was pressure to create an external, visible, and measurable persona, yet I longed to do things that flowed naturally from who I was. Over time, I realized that the most important thing I could give to my patients was not my medical knowledge and surgical skill, but my substance as a human being. To bring the presence of Christ, his peace, his love, is to initiate healing on the most fundamental level.
The liturgy reminds us that substance of our life is nurtured in hiddenness. It is through faithfulness to daily prayer, scripture reading, confession, corporate worship, and the sacraments, that we slowly submit ourselves to Christ and transform our lives into a blessing. In the midst of a chaotic culture that so often relies on the overt expression of self in order to create identity, we follow the example of Christ in Phillipians 2,
“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Our Lord, who could have come to us in a magnificent display of his glory, instead came quietly, planting seeds and pouring his substance into a hungry world. It is staggering to think that He walked on such a narrow strip of earth, and yet his love utterly transformed, and continues to transform the Universe. Still, before he extended himself in ministry he submitted himself to the slow, formative effects of prayer, fasting, scripture.
This Lenten season is a wonderful time to step out in faith, remembering that our identity is rooted in Christ, and the small sacrifices we make are blessed and multiplied by our Lord. The more we become like Him, the more we have to offer to a broken world. Elder Thaddeus, in his book “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives” profoundly describes our role as Christians “to filter the atmosphere on earth and expand the atmosphere of the Kingdom of God.” Our Lenten fast is a time to feast on Christ and remember that we inhabit his kingdom; and that kingdom, which started as a small seed in the winter of human history, continues to grow and flourish, making that which was dry lush, and that which was dead alive.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is youra life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14