Have you ever had that lost feeling, the feeling of drifting along lost at sea disconnected from any kind of great community? Sometimes I feel like I am wandering, figuring this life out on my own. There are signposts for sure, books I read or teachers I learn from, but when I put the book down or finish the podcast I am left alone once again.
I love the United States. I am grateful for all it has given me, but our lack of deep traditions can frustrate me. And what traditions we do have tend to be shallow. They lack the weight of a practice observed by a community over a long period of time. It seems being a “melting pot” has left us lacking a unified cultural identity. Or does our fierce individualism buck against the idea of sharing a common identity?
When I see a Mexican family celebrating a Quinceañera or a Jewish boy preparing for his bar mitzvah, I can’t help but feel I am missing out. Have you ever felt that, a feeling of being lost or disconnected from a great community?
I long for a deeper connection to my roots. I want to feel more connected to those who came before me, and I want to be more connected to the rest of the world. I want to belong to a community greater than myself. Can you relate?
Last week I began reading a book that caused me to feel this more acutely, and then left me feeling silly for not realizing the answer has been in front of me all along.
Joan Chittister is a Benedictine nun. She is has written a number of fantastic books, but recently have I discovered one that is quickly becoming my favorite, The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life. Chittister reminds me that I am connected to a deep tradition, a group of people stretching back thousands of years.
“A good spiritual life connects us to where we come from, even in the midst of where we are now. It gives us roots. It carries a tradition on its back. It ties us to the past in a way that enables us to know who we are in the present. It is the place we never really leave because being there together is what makes us who we are today.”
This just happens to come from the section of the book about Lent, the time on the Christian calendar we are entering now. Lent is a season that connects us to who we are. On Ash Wednesday we are reminded of the truth from Genesis that we were formed from dust, and we are reminded of our humanity, that to dust we will return.
Though we enter this season in mourning, the root of the word Lent is “spring.” Lent is ultimately a season of renewal. It reminds us that just as the seed falls to the ground to die (Could it fall any farther?), it is in dying that new life is born.
“Lent is one of those elements of Christian practice that binds the Christian community to one another and to its beginnings. It ties us to the core of us that is not transient, that is not changing, that does not fail us. Lent gives the lie to isolation. We are not alone. We walk with the church throughout the world on this journey to renewal. We walk, too, with the One who has gone before us to bring us home again… Every year the Sundays of Lent plunge us into the center of the faith, reminding us of who we are and who we must become.”
I don’t know about you, but this is a vision of Lent I want to be a part of. I wonder if you would join me. Will you join the community of disciples around the world from different Christian traditions that will be engaging this ancient practice?