It's Monday of the first full week of Lent.
I always find this an interesting season in the Church's year. I have blogged about this before, many times (one of my favourite reflections on Lent was one I wrote for the Community last year). Lent is always a mixed time: at work, this time of year is often one of our busiest (prompting me to advise the training administrators that I was not available for out-of-town travel for Holy Week way back in September last year!); but it's also the time of year when we try to be most open to listening for the whisper of God in all the "muchness and many-ness" (Richard Foster).
I am not part of a Lenten study group this year, mostly for logistical reasons, but I have chosen a Lenten study book. Merton and Hesychasm is a series of essay studies and papers of how Thomas Merton's thought was influenced by the Eastern Orthodox church and thinkers. Besides being a really serious theological read, it's also a very beautifully written book with a great deal of depth. Basically, the point the writers are making is that hesychasm (the "prayer of the heart", the regular use of a short simple prayer such as the Jesus Prayer, "Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner") can, over time, become both a point of focus for the heart to come back to, and a source of inner deepening and conversion of the heart.
There's a lot of Eastern Orthodox theology here that I'm not that familiar with, but I have experimented with the use of the Jesus Prayer (for me, often linked with the rosary - I have started to move to using the Jesus Prayer instead of the Hail Mary for the decade beads) and am finding that it is a wonderful way of helping me stay centred. It doesn't always work - well, more honestly, I don't always work at it! - but I am reminded of the suggestion of one of the Community Guardians when I was formulating my Rule of Life. He suggested that I try to not only pray "in my cell" (in my inner prayer space inside), but I try to live and work from there too.
Alongside this, there have been the horrific events in the world. Christchurch's earthquake and casualties from 22 February is all too close to home; but now, there's also an unbelievable M9.0 earthquake and 10m tsunami in Japan that has literally obliterated huge parts of the country - whole towns have simply disappeared. More scary still (if this is possible) is the fact that three of Japan's nuclear reactors are in a critical state, damaged by the earthquake, and one of their major oil refineries is burning down. I find it hard to believe the photos: they are terrifying. I keep returning to something Dean Peter Beck of ChristChurch Cathedral said, "This isn't an "Act of God". This is the planet, doing it's thing. The Act of God is in the love and compassion we show to each other." (paraphrased).