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Surprises in Lent

Published: 9th February 2024

Interim Dean, Stephen EdwardsAn article for March editions of parish magazines from Stephen Edwards, Interim Dean of Worcester. 

Choral Mattins, the sung service of morning prayer, was the main Sunday service in my childhood parish church – the place where I first felt called to the ordained ministry and where my spirituality and faith were shaped and nurtured. Many memories come back to me when I think of my time in the choir, but as Lent journeys on I particularly remember that one of the canticles sung in the service changed: the Te Deum, the great ancient hymn of praise, was retired for the season in favour of the Benedicite Omnia Opera – a fabulously named canticle for a child to ponder.

It is an exciting musical expression of praise for creation encompassing everything from the ‘sun and moon’, ‘fire and heat’, ‘dews and frosts’, right the way through to the more exotic and bizarre praises for ‘the fowls of the air’ and by far the best for a child to sing, ‘o all ye green things upon the earth, bless ye the Lord’.

During the seasons when the church was stripped of flowers and colour, when we were giving things up, and paring things down, it was a joyful and playful thing to sing these words every Sunday morning in Lent.

Lent is often talked about as if it were a challenge to be beaten, a marathon of demands for us to prove a point. Spiritual disciplines and denials do have their place but not as an end in themselves but as a way of stripping away the distractions that prevent us ordinarily from seeing the glory of God at work around us.

The playful words and images of the Benedicite were all the more wonderful because they were sung in a season otherwise without colour or vibrancy. I pray that these 40 days will surprise us with new and living understandings of the God who calls us, not to dullness, but fullness of life.

Page last updated: Friday 9th February 2024 9:34 AM

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