September 28, 2020

Beginning our walk across Lenten fields

Lenten Fields

Beginning our walk across Lenten fields
For Ash Wednesday

The picture above is the first in a series of photos that I will use to focus my Lenten meditations this year. Click on it to see the full size image.

I took this in the early morning at Gethsemani Abbey, Bardstown, KY, in March of 2014. I call it “Lenten Fields” because it speaks to me of both the barrenness and fecundity of the Lent season.

The vast swath of earth in the foreground speaks to me on this Ash Wednesday — “dust you are, to dust you shall return.” We are animated earth, filled with potential for life and fruitfulness.

The deer foraging the fields remind me that God cares for his creatures. Even when the earthly landscape seems barren and circumstances unfavorable for nourishment, there is provision.

The trees so stark and apparently lifeless tell me life is more than meets the eye. Soon the life within will bud and flower and produce a sea of green.

There is a road hidden in the midst of the landscape on which people travel. It goes around curves and up and down, through fog and toward hills, its destination unseen.

All this, the Lenten journey.

All this, the lengthening of days and the coming of light.


  1. Nice photo and meditation.

    For me, there comes a morning every winter when I say, “Hey, it’s not as dark anymore.” Yesterday morning was that morning.

  2. Most of life is ordinary. There is a lot of repetition and mundanity. Lent’s barren scape is a good reminder that holiness is ever present, hidden in the plain and unadorned.

    • “holiness is ever present, hidden in the plain and unadorned”

      Yes, if we but have the eyes to see.

      The city is a mirrorball,
      Throwing rainbows around.
      I listen to the whistle of the crosswalk cop,
      Conducting the rhythm downtown;
      And out the window of a passing car
      Wedding bubbles are blowing in clouds.

      I wonder what could it mean?

      Could it mean that
      Someone is asking to dance with me?

      ‘Cause I see angels
      Like a Reverend Finster painting
      Hanging glowing garlands
      From the rooftops of these rundown buildings,
      Spilling gold and gilding all the sidewalks,

      Reflecting the sky
      To remind me
      Someone is asking to dance with me,
      Striking up the sappy saxophones and strings
      Till all the angels of the atmosphere sing,
      “Come and dance with me.”

  3. Excellent post Chaplain Mike. It is amazing to me how I used to rely on and be so “sure, so certain”. Then my world imploded and my journey began. Now I worship the Lord and can actually thank Him for the mystery of following Him thank Him for the winding road, for His provision along the way but not demanding the map before I follow. It has taken so much pressure off of me. I was able to attend our Ash Wednesday service last evening and it was such joy to hear us all respond together to the ancient words. We didn’t need to be “new, experimenting or, thank God, loud”. The Body of Christ worshiping and remembering the broken and spilled out body of Christ.

    • Ronald Avra says

      Good observations

    • I’ve been a believer for a long time but last night was the first time I’ve ever attended an Ash Wednesday service. I was humbled and encouraged at the same time and reminded over and over again of God’s love and provision for me through Jesus Christ. It was a truly remarkable time.

      Why have all of you kept this such a secret from so many of us? 🙂

  4. Beautiful post, Chaplain MIKE.
    Lent . . . the season when light increases . . . yes, this

    Strangely, the biblical saying of St. John the Baptist: ‘I must decrease’ . . . the Church fixed the Summer solstice as the time to celebrate the birthday of St. John the Baptist, and it is not a coincidence that his words were honored, as on that day, the light begins to ‘decrease’

    I hope your journey to the ocean was restful. God bless!

    • “the Church fixed the Summer solstice as the time to celebrate the birthday of St. John the Baptist, and it is not a coincidence that his words were honored, as on that day, the light begins to ‘decrease’”

      It’s not strange that I have never heard this, coming from a SBC and non-denom background, but this is what I love about liturgical traditons–almost everything is infused with meaning and points toward some aspect of the Gospel.

  5. beautifully written, thanks for this Chap.

  6. Pellicano Solitudinis says

    “Lent, the season when light increases…” – what are the implications for observing Lent in the Southern Hemisphere?

    • That is such an interesting question! And it reveals that our traditions do come from specific places in the world where Christianity developed.

      If we have any readers south of the equator, I’d love to hear how the liturgical year is presented in different climes.

  7. Burro [Mule] says

    This year is tougher for me than most, seeing that our Lent starts nearly a month from now, on March 14. All the Lent-talk from our Western brethren seems a little, I dunno, premature. Everything seems easier once every four years or so when we concelebrate with the West.

    Our Pascha doesn’t come until May 1 this year.

  8. This is the time of tension between dying and birth
    The place of solitude where three dreams cross
    Between blue rocks
    But when the voices from the yew tree-tree drift away
    Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
    Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
    of the garden,
    Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
    Teach us to care and not to care
    Teach us to sit still
    Even among these rocks,
    Our peace in His will
    And even among these rocks
    Sister, mother
    And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
    Suffer me not to be separated

    And let my cry come unto Thee.

    “Ash-Wednesday”, T. S. Eliot

  9. She hears upon that water without sound
    A voice that cries, ‘The tomb in Palestine
    Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
    It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.’
    We live in an old chaos of the sun,
    Or old dependency of day and night,
    Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
    Of that wide water, inescapable.
    Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
    Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
    Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
    And, in the isolation of the sky,
    At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
    Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
    Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

    Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”