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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Lent

I know that we're only a few days into Lent, but it seems especially meaningful to me this year. I think it's because this is the first year that I have actually taken it seriously. My spirituality and understanding of the purpose of the Christian life has drastically changed and grown in recent times, and the increased focus on the primary purpose of our life in Christ - our striving towards sanctification and deification - is something of which I realise all the more now just how much I fall short.

We had the Ash Wednesday Rite here at the house, followed by the Divine Liturgy of the day. It was very intimate and at the same time quite aweful. For the first time, the imposition of ashes actually meant something quite significant to me, as I intended to immerse myself in the opporunities that Lent provides. How much I shall have successfully done so come the end is something that I do not yet know, but the physical reminder of my mortality and the need for a focus on the life to come was very haunting indeed.

I have begun to make my way through Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey through Lent, which is quite light but at the same time has led me to look a little further at myself and some of my traits that I had previously not noticed, or about which I hadn't much bothered. I'm glad because some of these things, while seemingly innocent, are actually not as harmless as they at first appear.

So yes, I have finally succumbed to pressure and jumped on the Lent book bandwagon. Has anybody else found some publication useful during the past for Lenten reflection, or perhaps this year for the first time? I'd certainly be interested to read more, and may well take recommendations for future years. Please do share.

May you all have a blessed and holy Lent.

21 comments:

Mark said...

Must dash, but for Lent books I got:
- 2 versions of Stations of the Cross devotions;
- Scott Hahn, Lord Have Mercy;
- St Francis de Sales, An Introduction to the Devout Life;
- Éamonn Duffy, Faith of our Fathers.

...er, and the Catechism, naturally.

Michael Astley said...

You're keeping busy, aren't you? Mind you, you have a longer attention span than I do.

I never really found Scott Hahn helpful when I was exploring Catholicism. I don't disparage what he does, rather, I just think that as somebody from a particular background, much of his work is geared towards people of similar background, and it's something of which I've never really been a part.

Still, followinf your example, I may well take the opportunity to finish some other books that I have started, not the least of which is The Imitation of Christ. I'll also try to adopt a more structured pattern of reading St Benedict's Rule rather than skipping the chapters that don't seem particulartly interesting on a given day, which, I confess, is what I've been doing thus far.

Ian said...

My prayers for a Blessed Lent to you also. How wondrous and blessed to have the services of the Church in your own home.

Last year I read Fr Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent: Journey to Pascha as I journeyed to Pascha, I will do so again this year. He truly does a wonderful job of describing the "bright sadness" (as he describes it) of Lent and how Lent draws us ever deeper into the longing for a relationship with God.

Another book I try and re-read at this time is Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov's The Arena: An Offering to Contemporary Monasticism. A challenging book, I expect in the same way as your Benedictine book is.

Michael Astley said...

Hmmm. I may well take note of Bishop Ignatius's book for my next reading material. Why does he entitle it The Arena? Is he likening the struggles against temptation to the fights of the gladiators - a fight to the death? It seems rather apt to me.

I hadn't heard of Fr Alexander's book either.

I really seem have been out of touch with the joys of Lent books for far too long.

Mark said...

@Michael:

You're keeping busy, aren't you?
- Well, I try... ;-) Longer attention span? Not sure I do...!

The Imitation of Christ is a wonderful book. Sadly I have lost my copy so I need to get it again.

Yup, read St Benedict's Rule like that. I'm using the same approach to the Divine Office--I read the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer, because then it's better for me--even if I don't want to! The only bit I don't do is Prayer during the Day, because I don't always get that opportunity at work.

Don't be too hard on yourself, though. Though Lent is a penitential period, it is leading up to something very joyful!

Chris said...

I picked up The Seven Last Words by Bishop Fulton Sheen and Death on a Friday Afternoon by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus for Lenten reading this year.

Ian said...

Why does he entitle it The Arena? Is he likening the struggles against temptation to the fights of the gladiators - a fight to the death?

Got it in one.

Richard said...

'Scripture and the Authority of God' by N. T. Wright is my Lent book for this year; it's not billed as such but I thought it'd be appropriate. I thought finally getting round to reading something that my Lord Bishop has written might be a good idea. (Other than his essay on post-death life which was abominable!)

I also picked up Fr Lang's 'Towards the Lord' (or whatever it's called).

Richard

Michael Astley said...

Christ, welcome!

What was that programme called that Fulton Sheen used to host, fully kitted out in his episcopal garb? That was fabulous! They occasionally show it on EWTN.

Ian, thank you for that. It was purely an educated guess so I'm quite pleased with myself. :-)

Richard, you're alive! This is good. Is this Uwe Michael Lang's, Turn(ing?) Toe=wards the Lord? If so, read it. It really is quite good. I must retrieve my copy from the current borrower.

Richard said...

It is indeed that book; I've started it and it seems interesting enough, if a little heavy (which is odd, given that it's a little book!).

Richard

Barnabas said...

Sounds like an intresting book, I will have to try and get a copy. I'm planning on writting a Lent book one of these days.

Margi said...

I always reread 'Life After Death' by Met Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. Apart form that I am sufficiently irreverent to think of Lent as Lentilmas *sigh*.

Michael Astley said...

Lentilmas - I like! :-)

I'm sorry I haven't responded or posted lately. I was busy for the few days leading up to the weekend and then was away over ther weekend and got back in the wee hours of this morning.

Now I need sleep! :-(

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, I am PM-ing everyone who posted on the Gregorian chant thread on the Ship to see if some can help me out.

I want to print the music of the Lord's prayer in a service booklet I'm doing, but I don't know enough about Greg chant to do it in time.

Do you happen to already have it typed up? The text needs to be in English.

-ecumaniac

Mark said...

I'm not Michael, but I have what I think is Gregorian Chant for the Lord's Prayer. I'll have to scan it into a computer...

Let me know,
Mark

Michael Astley said...

There we go, ecumaniac,

I've contacted you privately but if what I have isn't the version of the text you want, try Mark's. I'm more than happy to do one for you using the Gregoire program but if Mark has what you want, it may well be quicker for you.

Mark, is it Merbecke that you have? I only ask because his is a simplified version of the plainsong, although it is represented in plainsong notation. It's similar enough to throw someone who knows the plainsong.

Thank you so much for the St Dunstan Psalter. I use it in my private singing of the Office but I cannot tell you just how very usefulo it proved to be this weekend just gone as I had to lead the music for a retreat in which I took part, which had oodles of psalms. It's amazing just how quickly people with no musical background pick up plainsong.

M

Mark said...

I think it's Merbecke, but it's actually in normal notation (if that makes sense; treble clef with A, B, and E flatted).

Mark said...

And you're very welcome. I never got into the Dunstan Psalter, but that's because my music-reading is awful. I can sing, just not read music! ;-)

Michael Astley said...

but it's actually in normal notation (if that makes sense; treble clef with A, B, and E flatted).

That isn't normal notation. Representing chant in such a fashion is an abomination in the sight of the Lord, and a sin crying to heaven for vengeance. (Mind you, I think much the same thing about opening crisp packets at the wrong end, so that probably doesn't mean very much ;-))

More seriously, though, chant represented with modern notation really doesn't work, and is a pain for people who do sight-read, mainly because modern notation is properly part of a musical system that has precise key signatures, exact time signatures, and specific lengths of notes. These just don't exist in the same way (or in some cases, at all), in plainsong, but for the singer who has the modern notes in front of him, it really is difficult to de-programme from thinking in terms of exact pitch and time.

It's much better, in my opinion (which is never humble), if modern music is represented by modern notation and plainchant by chant notation.

Having said all that, The New English Hymnal has Merbecke in modern notation.

Yes, I remember that you can sing, and well, too. What this weekend taught me is just how easily people pick up the psalm tones if somebody takes a half hour to explain how they work and then gives them a clear lead in singing them. That's how a small group of people got through the Offices over the weekend and, come Monday, I was largely redundant. Don't feel defeated if you tried it alone and it didn't work out. Is there somebody you can sing the Office with, at least once a week or so?

Mark said...

Grumpy Michael! ;-)

My point is I can at least play the 'normal notation' on the piano; I cannot play plainchant. Who gives a monkeys?

Michael Astley said...

You call me grumpy as though it's a bad thing. :-D