My intention was to not drink any alcohol during Lent (with my Catholic upbringing the concept of giving something up for Lent is deeply ingrained). But Ash Wednesday this year, by a happy coincidence, was also Valentine’s Day, so I opened a bottle of special Korean ‘100 Year’ wine to go with the meal I’d prepared for my wife (who is from Korea).On Thursday evening we had been invited by friends to a restaurant as a belated gift for our silver wedding anniversary, and with the delicious meal was a very pleasant bottle of Spanish red. Friday was Chinese New Year, which is a big feast in Korea, so we had a glass of wine to go with our special new year dish of rice cake soup. And then on Saturday I’d been invited by an old friend for a walk and a pub lunch, and we had a beer while we sat out on the terrace in the glorious early-Spring sunshine. I finally managed to abstain from alcohol on Day 5 of Lent!
I remind myself that the first miracle of Jesus was not the curing of the leper or the giving of sight to a blind person, important as these later miracles were. Rather it was turning water into wine at a wedding feast. And it wasn’t just a few bottles; it was six huge containers, probably far more than would be needed. And it wasn’t just any old wine; it was the very best. Such a gesture speaks to me of a generous God who gives in abundance.
The beginning of Lent was marked for me as well by my mother being admitted to a dementia assessment unit. She had been in hospital following a fall and it had become quickly clear that she would be unable to return home. I had made a few trips to Coventry since Christmas to visit her and was grateful that I’d been with her for what I realized would be the last weekend she would ever spend in the house where she’d lived for nearly fifty years. I also travelled up to be with her for a weekend when she was in the hospital and it was a precious time of simply sitting together. And when I went back to her house in the evening and was looking around at the multitude of family photos on display I felt profoundly thankful for this woman who has loved me so abundantly.
My mum came to England in 1957, the year the Irish Chaplaincy was founded. She and my dad were part of that mass wave of emigration from Ireland in the post-war years and they were just the kind of people that the Chaplaincy walked alongside at that time. And today mum is just the kind of person that our Seniors’ Project reaches out to.
The title of this blog was inspired by the first of Brian Draper’s excellent Lenten series called ‘Lent 40’ (and you can register by clicking sign up ). His Ash Wednesday reflection was called ‘The Way of Love’ and he wrote: “So here we are, then! Embarking together on a journey from Ash Wednesday through to Easter … which happens also to be from Valentine’s to April Fools’ Day! And perhaps that’s fitting. For this is a journey of love, ultimately, with an ending so seemingly foolish that, quite poetically, it’s almost beyond belief.”
I like that the word Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning to lengthen. And that is precisely what happens at this time of year; after the long and hard winter the days finally become longer and lighter. And the Spring flowers are a welcome reminder that new life will surely return once more.
And may we this Lent be open to both giving and receiving love in abundance.