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Updated: Feb 28, 2021

By: The Rev. Joanne Tetrault, Associate Rector for Children’s Ministries & Parish Day School Chaplain

A short verse by one of my favorite poets, the late Mary Oliver, goes like this:

We shake with joy, we shake with grief,

What a time they have, these two,

Housed as they are in the same body.

If we think of our own experiences of joy, and of grief, and how they play out within our physical selves, we can feel the dichotomy – the seemingly opposing tugs – that Oliver speaks of. What amazing creations we are, that these two quite strong and different emotions, housed together within us, can bring forth the same response.

And so as we approach the holy season of Lent, a season of “self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial …” (BCP, p. 265), might we do so with a bit of trepidation this year? After all, haven’t we all been through enough? Enough sadness, loss, isolation, separation, upheaval, worry. Couldn’t we use a little joy right now, and a lot less grief?

I think this is an instance of both/and. We can all benefit now from BOTH less grief AND more joy. As we approach this season of Lent, let’s broaden our perspective, to remember it is a time when we are, once again, invited fully into God’s loving embrace of forgiveness and redemption. When we are, once again, invited to begin again. Every day. It is not simply and only a season in which we follow our savior Jesus to the cross but also a season in which we are invited to name and shed light on those dark places that are housed within us. It is a season that also houses the seeds of new life.

One of my professors from Virginia Seminary, The Rev. James Farwell, says it so well:

“Lent is also about joy, to the extent that our effort, by the grace of God to return to the life God offers, is a moment of solemn celebration. There is sorrow in repentance – in turning again – as we acknowledge death and loss. But there is also JOY in Lenten repentance. It is a turning again toward LIFE. It is a return to what heals us … a love from whom we are not separated by pandemic or disaster, and who does not abandon us.”

Amen to that. A blessed and holy Lent, sorrowful and joyful, to all.

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