“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore; –
Turn whereso’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.”
In this excerpt from his opus “Intimations of Immortality,” poet William Wordsworth describes a time of blissful newness, harmony, and innocence that is our birthright. It is the Garden of Eden, that mythical paradise which, thank you Adam and Eve, we no longer inhabit. After eating the proverbial apple, those first inhabitants of the Garden exit it, mistakenly thinking/feeling that God was angry at them when in fact, She/He was only wanting to embrace them and to welcome them back.
Being a myth, this eternal story describes a reality that is forever true. Having inherited the Original Sin of Adam and Eve’s falling prey to the temptation that they were somehow insufficient and in need of being more God-like, we, too, often believe we must achieve an unattainable level of virtue/perfection/holiness in order to be worthy in God’s eyes. And because we do not usually measure up to divine standards of approval, we, like our first ancestors, mistakenly assume we are a disappointment and are thus undeserving of unconditional love.
What does this have to do with Lent you might ask? Lent being a traditional time of repentance and disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, it is thought that if we forego the things we most enjoy for the forty days prior to Easter, we will please/appease God, and earn our way to that other Garden – heaven. I would suggest that along with whatever form of repentance one might wish to engage in, you also think of Lent as a time to relent, that is, to cease resisting the God-love that we think we must earn and, instead, humbly accept the love that is ours undeserved. In this case, Lent would be a time to go from fast to slow, from running to resting, from noisy to quiet, from being scattered to mindful, from giving up what we like to giving in to our being loved.
If, as a Lenten practice, we were to sit in quiet receptivity to being unconditionally loved for 40 seconds three times a day (morning, noon, and night), Lent might become a time of transformation, one that could enable us to see and experience life, others, and ourselves “appareled in celestial light.”