20130129-193557Lent is coming.

Last Christmas, for various reasons, I failed to get to grips with my usual programme of prayer and Bible study. It felt like a dry season for me. I carried on with my prayers and my regular confession, but one of the things I had to confess was that my heart was not in any of it. If will alone could have accomplished it, I should have been better, but although there was an assent of the mind, my heart remained closed.

It reminded me of what I know but forget sometimes: that faith is not just a matter of intellectual acceptance, it is about a change of heart, and therefore a matter of the heart. Whenever it is simply the former, I feel something is missing. That’s why for me praying the Rosary is so important – it enables me to reflect in prayer on the episodes of Our Lord’s life and suffering.

That seems to me one of the places where Anglo-Catholic and Catholic Churches do something which I am not sure others do – which is to appeal to all the senses, not just the intellect. The smell of incense alone can help get me into the right mood to receive my Saviour. I can’t help it if that sounds a bit ‘precious’, because I do like to be in the right frame of mind and the right place emotionally.

Before I leave for church I pray and read the Gospel appointed for the day. I put on a nice dress and favourite shoes and hat because I am going to meet my Lord  I’d do that if I was going somewhere special in a secular sense, so it is the least I can do when going to be in Christ’s presence. I love decorating the altar, praying before the Blessed Sacrament, and then waiting in quiet contemplation for Mass to begin.  I try not to let noisy arrivals distract me, but I do wish they’d be quiet.

So, too, with Lent. I’d already decided that I was going to devote my reading to St. Paul, and after Mr Sales’ comments, I think that will have to be Romans. I shy away from St Paul sometimes, finding him sometimes rather difficult; so I will make the attempt to be good and read him in prayer and asking for help. I may end up asking some of you for help too 🙂

I like to read a devotional text during Lent, and have decided to read Wesley’s Plain Account of Christian Perfectionwhich I began last year and failed to finish. It will balance my other book, which is a collection of Marian thoughts by the Pope.

It is traditional to give something up. There’d be no point my abandoning alcohol, as I rarely drink, but can I really survive with no chocolate? That it would be a real sacrifice suggests I should try.

I am getting ready for Lent. To those who ask, as some do, why bother? The answer comes during the Easter Liturgies – from Mass of Good Friday through the Feast of the Resurrection, the experience of Lent as lived adds something to the heart’s reception of the Lord.