The lenten season approaches03 Feb 2010
My class on Medieval theology is going through a section on the “theology” of the monks (in quotations because “theology” as a term is the result of the Scholastic or school-based tradition; the monks would not have described their reflections as theology). As Denis Turner waxed wisely on how the writings and the thoughts of the monks must be understood within the context of the monastic life, I was struck with the idea that lent is a chance of us, average human beings not in a monastic community, to inhabit the monastic life. It is a time to set aside distractions, to live by a rule of prayer, to engage in a period of intensely seeking God. In the Orthodox tradition, it is a time to abstain from animal products, to reduce ones diet to the very simple elements of grains, vegetables, and fruits. One also is encouraged to abstain sexually for the 40 day period and to devote ones time to a pattern of prayer, scripture and the writings of the saints. This is a tradition that I am still exploring, and so have likely forgotten aspects of their Lenten practice. However, it strikes me that this is a mimicking of the monastic life, the life of poverty, celibacy and prayer. It is a chance for us to enter the monastic life as the community of the church and together to seek God through the humbling of the demands of our body and the demands of our busy life-style.
If it is true that one cannot understand monastic thought apart from the context of daily prayer, liturgy, fasting, and work, perhaps the best time to read these writings is during the season of lent. And perhaps lent is more than a time of self-denial but a chance to seek God as the monastics seek: through a pattern of life that is focused on silencing distractions and intensely focused on seeking God through his Word.