Walking in the Footsteps of Christ
Day 1 – Ash Wednesday
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
Jesus the Master speaks, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.” John 12:24-26
From St Francis:
St Francis’s Love for Jesus
Francis was intimately united with Jesus – Jesus always in his heart. Jesus on his lips. Jesus in his ears. Jesus in his eyes. Jesus in his hands, Jesus in all the other members of his body. How many times he would be eating dinner and would hear or mention to think about Jesus and forget to eat, so that, as we read about one of the saints, ‘Looking he did not see, and listening he did not hear!’ Often when he was on a journey, meditating or singing about Jesus, he would leave the road and start inviting all creatures to praise Jesus. (Celano, First Life, 115)
The beginning of a new Lent often finds me strong and determined and full of life and promises, and on good Ash Wednesday’s, I can even find myself holding on to my new found devotion until at least nightfall…..
Well things are not really that bad, but within a few days that can seem to be the case.
Perhaps one of my problems is that very often I see the journey of faith to be mostly about holding onto things (extra devotions, additional fasts, deeper care for others) which are all good in themselves. However when I reflect on the success, or otherwise, of these activities, it most often feels as if it is a case of me losing my grip and Lent, instead of becoming a journey towards a harvest of righteousness becomes a descent into despair.
Knowing this, and suspecting that my experience is not restricted to me alone; I wonder if a different attitude to the disciplines of Lent might be helpful?
Lent, in common language is about giving up – how many times in the last few days have you been asked, or have you asked yourself the question ‘What will I give up for Lent’? This year I will be attempting to ‘give up’ in a different manner.
What would happen if Lent were about ‘giving up’ on holding on? No longer clinging fiercely to new or renewed discipline (though still attempting them) but realising that what is needed for success is not to put things away (give up) for a season but to let them die completely.
Could Lent be more fruitful if we took the poor habits, the self-centeredness, the plain old wilful sinfulness and, instead of resisting them and struggling against them for forty days, bury them in the hope that they become seeds of righteousness?
Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Was it not Dietrich Bonhoeffer who told us that ‘When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.’
I am tired of failing at Lent.
I am tired of losing my grip at attempting holiness
I am tired of having to let go of my promises as the season progresses.
This year I want to do it differently.
This Lent I want Christ to be the one transforming me from the inside out – turning the seed of my wilfulness in to a harvest of joyful obedience.
This Lent I want to die. Why not come die with me?
O Christ my Beloved,
each day you embrace me,
each hour you honour me,
each moment you cherish me.
I do not deserve it,
but through your grace,
I accept that I am,
in your eyes,
lovely and beloved:
so fill me with your Holy Spirit,
that I may take
each present moment, hour, and day
to embrace, honour
and cherish others
Julie M Hulme
Look at the things you have decided to ‘give up’ for Lent?
What ‘fruit’ will they bear?
Is there any ‘seed sowing’ which you need to be doing in the next forty days?
Plant some seeds and watch them grow – water cress worked well when I was at Junior School
99 Words to Breathe:
The sight of new life stirs the heart. No matter how low we feel, tumbling puppies, tiny pink piglets – even the soft furry buds of willow melt away stress and strain. For me it is the birth of a new plant. To find new roots emerging from the base of a cut stem still stirs my soul – the same with seedlings.
Take a few beans or peas, put them in glass jar half-filled with damp paper, stand it in a warm room. First a root then a growth shoots. You watch new life. The soul responds
Beth Chatto – plants woman, gardener and writer
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged