In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, today is Clean Monday, the first day of Lent, 2014. And so the Church sings:
The lenten spring shines forth, the flower of repentance! Let us cleanse ourselves from all evil, crying out to the Giver of Light: “Glory to You, O Lover of Mankind.”
Today is not a day for ashes. Yes, we repent and ask forgiveness, but we do not grovel in guilt and self-hatred at the feet of an Angry God. No, we open ourselves up to the love of the Giver of Light and with a new mind and a new heart we prepare to enter the endless forest, to climb the un-summitable peak of his love. Today is a day of expectation as we strap on our packs and prepare to journey through to Easter, to Pascha (Passover). It is a day for adventure, exploration, fresh air, and fresh hope. It is a day to look through the contents of our packs and decide what to leave behind. What do we need on this journey? And what will weigh us down?
Yes, Lent is the sister of Spring, but here at the bus, snow is falling and my garden is buried under three feet of the white stuff. Today, I plan to cross country ski down to the river, but starting tomorrow, rain is in the forecast. I am aching to see the dirt and plant my spinach and pick the arrow-leaf balsam root, but first I must slog through the drip and the sog and the mud of spring. Spring is not summer. The camas flowers must struggle up and out of their bulbs. The gardener must labor on her knees, digging, planting, mulching.
And so as I enter the lenten journey, I am reminded that, as on any adventure worth taking, I will have to wrestle against fatigue and frustration and even fear. Still,we cannot sit still any longer. It is time to go.