"Therefore, dearly beloved, may you too always rejoice in the Lord. And may neither bitterness nor a cloud overwhelm you." (St. Clare of Assisi, The Third Letter to Agnes of Prague)
Spring – when the flowers begin emerging from the winter sleep, the bright light of the day overtakes the night. As the green grass emerges from the ground, we, too, can emerge from that which has overwhelmed us. It is no coincidence that nearly every religious tradition has a joyous festival in the Spring.
Our spiritual ancestors, the Children of Israel, celebrate Spring with the observance of Passover. It is an ancient ritual to scour homes for chametz, or leaven, and to rid it from ourselves in preparation for the Feast of Passover. With a candle to light the way and a feather to gently collect, the chametz is gathered and discarded. Only then can the ritual of remembering and reliving the Exodus from Egypt can begin. Spring cleaning is given a remarkable religious context.
At the Passover Seder, families and communities gather to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Egypt, in Hebrew is Mitzrayim, which literally translates to “That which confines or narrows.” The Children of Israel were, by God’s grace and authority, freed from the oppressive Pharaoh. For forty years, they wandered the desert of the Levant, growing and moving.
At the Seder, a festive meal is eaten, with 4 cups of wine. Those at the Seder table eat reclining, as free men did.
Our Lord, as he entered in his Passion, was celebrating Passover. Because of His death – and the miracle of His resurrection -- we are freed from the scourge of sin. Jesus calls upon us to live with awareness of His eternal sacrifice, so that we may live free.
In the miracle of Christ’s resurrection and the memorial he established through the Eucharist, we are continually renewed. “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-5 (RSV)). Though we sin, we are blameless before the Throne of God’s Glory – because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.
As we prepare for the celebration of the Risen Christ during Lent (derived from the Celtic word “Lencten” or Spring), we observe the three Pillars of Lent: penitence, prayer, and almsgiving. These pillars are our path to renewal.
Penitence finds us forgiven – by those we have wronged and by ourselves. We no longer have the burden of our wrongs weighing us down.
Prayer connects us to that which is beyond the Self: God, Christ, our Community. In this connection, we find love, support, and empathy.
Almsgiving recognizes that there are those who are struggling, suffering and that we are empowered to suffer and struggle along with our sisters and brothers by giving up a part of our essential self. The Christ-like love of easing the suffering of others, even at the expense of our suffering, opens us up to know Christ on a profoundly intimate level.
May we be blessed to find continued renewal and strength through the Risen Christ.