Lent has never been about giving up chocolate or coffee; I don’t relate to that. Giving up meat forever would make sense, but that’s not a Lenten thing, I guess. Lent for me is about an imagined walk with Mary and others up that hill to Jerusalem, up those stairs to the Upper Room, up that slope to the Garden of Gethsemane. And finally, up to Golgotha, the Place of Skulls. For me, this 40-day walk is the most vital time in the Christian year.
Having the privilege of visiting Jerusalem more than once, it is not difficult to imagine Jesus, Mother Mary, disciples and soldiers, as well as the props and scenery in this drama. The sheep are still there. So is the fierce sun, cobblestones, donkeys, markets and spicy aromas.
Every year, with the flip of a pancake, it begins. As I imagine the walk to the cross, I think about others who walk with us. Mary — her guts in knots of dread and sleepless eyes peering at the starry sky - hearing the whispers, watching the soldiers and praying for a miracle, knowing that whatever comes will be the hardest thing in her life.
I see the disciples worrying that Jesus and his rock star status is out
of control and fearing that he will take them all down with him. Mary
Magdalene, already made brave by the circumstances of her life, aware
that she needs to call on all her resources for her dear friend and his
mom (How would I do it? I wonder.). Loyal, frightened Peter, trying to
find a practical way through the gathering storm. Judas, being scared
I walk with others who are also afraid for various reasons. Syrian, Ukrainian, Afghani, South African and Canadian children, as well as men and women who fear for themselves and their families in AIDS hospices, bomb shelters, food lines and dank prisons. Their walk must often seem all uphill, too.
I walk with the survivors and their families, commissioners, workers and volunteers preparing for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in Edmonton at the end of March. After all, Lent seems an appropriate time to hold this final national event.
I walk with friends whose children are dying or people struck with diseases too complicated for the medical system to understand or heal. I walk with children living in frightening poverty here in Calgary and everywhere else.
I walk with Mother Earth — wounded, ill, hopeful.
Thank God we need not walk alone, that we can walk in the company of friends, angels, saints and ancestors long gone. All of us together walking uphill, walking toward a future that will be different though we know not how.
This annual ritual of walking through Lent reminds me that Good Friday is terrible and inevitable. That the days following, when hope and promise lie cold in the tomb, are terrible and inevitable, too. I know that the mystery of Easter morning will arrive eventually, just as it always does. But it’s this long walk that makes Easter a day of blessing.
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