I have always enjoyed having Lent begin in the middle of winter. It just feels appropriate that, as winter winds down and approaches spring, Lent paves the road to Easter. The beginning of Lent this year was cold and quiet for us here at the Center. Snow blanketed the open spaces of the center. Icicles adorned the roofs of our retreat buildings. Slush bordered our streets. Despite the disruption and challenges that came with the weather, it provided a great opportunity for reflection.
Snow gently falls on the eve of Lent.
One of the most remarkable parts of the heavy snowing was the silence. Though the skies were unloading gigantic quantities of snow, all falling miles and miles to the ground, the snowflakes landed on the ground without any sound. The snow muffled all the sounds outside, and it seemed as if everything around me was pausing to marvel at this beautiful event. Everything that usually filled the space outside gave way for this one moment. This is exactly what Lent is supposed to be like.
A very important part of the spirituality that drives us here at the Jesuit Spiritual Center is the maxim of Finding God in All Things. I have always found God to be powerfully present in my surroundings. The beauty and majesty of God’s creation is a constant companion on my faith journey, and I am blessed to have easy access to beautiful spaces in which to immerse myself. On this snowy afternoon, I found God’s presence all around me. I could feel the peace, the stillness, the awe filling my heart and the world before me. It was an encounter with God’s love and an example of how to greet the Lenten season.
I saw the wonder of this beautiful gift of snow, and quickly realized that, if I was not careful, I would see this gift as a burden or a nuisance. As a matter of fact, after getting over the initial awe of the snow, I began to worry about my drive home. I got wrapped up completely in my own little world, and my sense of childlike amazement gave way to stress, fear, and anxiety.
Remembering that afternoon leaves me with an important question. How am I going to treat this time of Lent? Am I going to let the reflective peace and preparation drive my heart through a beautiful journey of penitence and humility? Or am I going to let my pride, anxieties, fears, and sinfulness lead my heart to aimlessly drift through “yet another Lent”? Our attitude matters. Our intentionality matters. Our perspective matters. I hope that, this Lent, we allow ourselves to see this time not as 40 long days of darkness and suffering, but as the blessing that it truly is: a chance to journey in peace with Christ, opening our hearts to penitence, healing, and preparation for our Savior’s resurrection. May we be open to the beautiful moments of pause, invite more silence into our preparation, and seek to meet every situation with patience, hope, and compassion.