“Lent is the autumn of the spiritual life during which we gather fruit to keep us going for the rest of the year. Enrich yourselves with these treasures, which nobody can take away from you and which cannot be destroyed. I am accustomed to say that we will not spend Lent well unless we are determined to make the most of it. Let us, therefore, spend this Lent as if it were our last, and we will make it well. Listen to the sermons, because holy words are pearls; they are ships of infinite mercy – the true ocean of the East.” (Letters 329; O. XIII, p. 144)
The above quote from St. Francis De Sales is a timely reminder that Lent can lead us to a time of discovering the fruitful and abundant love God has for us. Francis calls us to “make the most of it.” In a personally poignant way I have witnessed many moments during the week where ‘making the most of it’ happens out of the topsy-turvy messes of life, through unexpected encounters and stories shared that have been heart rending and uplifting. Through it all, a common theme emerges. And yes, it has something to do with ‘making the most of it!’
Last year at this time I was commuting to London regularly, a 2 hour round-trip from Oxford. I experienced both being in “commuting mode” amidst the hustle and bustle of London, and also “reflective mode” as I absorbed the people, places and situations that came my way. Along the way, I came across a book which I am sure Francis and Jane would have given a book club honor to. In “The Enduring Melody,” author Michael Mayne wrote about his life journey as the “fixed song.” The idea came from early church music, plainchant, which had a single line of melody. From the 12th century onwards, harmonies began to be added to this “fixed song” or cantus firmus, culminating in the glorious polyphony of Byrd in the 16th century. Higher and lower voices wrapped round the tenor that “held” the cantus firmus. Using this as a metaphor, Mayne went on to assert his belief that “the creation is an endless sequence of variations on the unchanging theme of God’s creative love.” For him, this meant “not simply a vague concept of the transcendent, but that of the incarnate and affirming God: the Christlike God of the Word made flesh.” This was a cantus firmus metaphor of God’s wholehearted love.
This wholehearted love continues to be fashioned daily: in our first monthly dinner with a Hispanic family which included eating, playing, and last but not least, praying! Welcoming neighbors in need of prayer and support; delighting in the witness of children at our weekly Wednesday morning Eucharist; one of our Sisters creatively using her gifts participating in a busy person’s retreat as a Spiritual Director. The ‘cantus firmus’ – the endless sequence of God’s creative love – continues to reveal itself in very real, human encounters.