On Lent and the Arts: how I find hope in the spiritual season I dread

I wrote an essay for Christianity Today that was published this morning, on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent for 2017. It's a modified essay of a foreword I wrote for Jim Janknegt's Lenten Meditation. Janknegt's devotional (which you can purchase here) includes 40 paintings based on the parables of Jesus, one for each day of Lent, along with a series of meditations and prayers. My essay was an occasion to explore the relationship between healing, on the one hand, and repetition, community and the visual arts, on the other. Here is how the essay begins.

Lenten Repetition Needs No Re-invention—Just Re-imagination:
How I find hope in the spiritual season I dread.

I both love and dread Lent.

I dread it because it asks a great deal of me. It invites me to give up things that I enjoy, things whose absence I might feel acutely, in some cases painfully. It does so not, as the casual Christian might suppose, as a way to inconvenience me or, more brightly, to enable me to live a more healthy, fruitful, faithful life (which, here and there, it does, and thank God for that).

Lent is decidedly uninterested in such pragmatic outcomes. It is interested instead in helping us to die a good death, with Jesus and with others who have bound themselves to the One whose death defines all deaths and defies death itself, and whose resurrected life determines the shape of the life that is truly life.

Each year, around the latter part of winter, Lent arrives. It nearly always surprises me. Here it is, once again, summoning me to change how I typically live. Predictably, I dread this summons every time. If there were an option to tack on a few extra days to the “ordinary time” that follows Christmastide, to forestall the arrival of Ash Wednesday, I would take it in a heartbeat.

For ten months out of the year, excepting the “little lent” of Advent, I go about my life ordered by a range of habits, governing how I eat, drink, sleep, talk on the phone, check email, exercise, write books, make decisions, treat other people, mow the lawn, pay bills, pray, worry and worship....

(You can find the rest of the essay here.)

The Wedding Feast
The Blind


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