Opening to Life

by Gwen Shipley, CFDM Faculty and Spiritual Director


It’s been a Narnian winter for sure—except there was a Christmas! The weather has been unrelenting across the Northwest, the kind meteorologists say we should expect every 20 years or so—but on steroids. Just when it seemed Spring was arriving, another round of flakes would fall.  Never mind that it has made for extraordinary photo ops and ensures much-needed moisture in the orchards and vineyards; the change of season can’t come soon enough!

In what feels like a repeat of Advent, I have grown impatient in the waiting. And, in fact, here we are waiting…waiting…waiting once again. Waiting for the promise of Resurrection awaiting us at the end of this season called Lent.

Originally, “lent” simply meant “the season of spring.” Eventually, though, it came to mean the forty days of solemn preparation leading to the commemoration of Christ’s passion prior to Easter. And, as is its nature, waiting makes the arrival of a thing even sweeter.

Growing up in a generally non-liturgical tradition, I found great meaning in the discovery of the church calendar. In the same way the Julian calendar marks the passage of time promising change when the natural seasons grow interminably long, meaningful moments in the life of the church when celebrated with others around the world, herald hope. They remind us that what can seem like a solitary journey, has been shared by others for centuries of seasons. The CFDM community and culture aim to provide a context in which we can share that same journey with our contemporaries. No one need travel alone.    

  • Some of you are “lifers” in this vein of Christian thought and experience known as spiritual formation.
  • Some are just exploring a vocabulary and set of practices that stretch the boundaries of familiarity.
  • Still others are experiencing the joy of discovering new life and freedom in your identity as The Beloved of God.

Thomas Merton likes to remind us, speaking especially of prayer, that “we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!”

Whatever your kronos timeline, we are all on the same path. Edna Hong calls it a path of “downward ascent…ending before the cross, where we stand in the white light of a new beginning” (Bread and Wine, 2003, Plough Publishing, p. 25).

“I have found only one religion that dares to go down with me into the depth of myself,” writes GK Chesterton, perfectly describing the “Going Deeper with God” experience, and the essential Lenten journey. Hong expands on this theme stating, “No other religion dares to take me down to the new beginning.”

The yearly recurrence of this Lenten/Easter period reminds us that just as Spring follows Winter in a cycle of robust, natural renewal, we, too, are invited into a life-sustaining cycle of releasing and receiving. My prayer is that we may continue to open to the Life, the new beginning we are being given in this and in every season.    

What is your experience of Lent? What are you reading, practicing? Comment below or jump over to FB. Share with us and with one another your experiences of Going Deeper with God in this season.


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