For whatever reason, I just love church during Lent. I love the tolling bells, the Decalogue (the repeating of the Ten Commandments), the Confession and Absolution, and the Trisagion. And that is just at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy! Lent, to me, is the time where I wander with my Lord in the desert. It is the time when I remember that my Lord was sent here to die for all of humanity and in order to truly be successful in life one must die to self and reach out into humanity in an intimate way. For some reason, this comforts me in the midst of my wanderings and temptations and frailities of being human.
This really is so abstract for children, and since part of healthy parenting and Waldorf homeschooling really is in the way we help children unfold the deep truths of life over time, I am always considering in Lent what I want my children of varying ages to absorb.
For those under age 9, I like to go over our Baptism Vows and talk about baptism and belonging. Part of the Baptism Liturgy for us as Episcopalians includes such beautiful language as “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?” and the prayer to give those baptized “an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works” . When we are baptized, we belong. Belonging and goodness is a wonderful part of baptism and how we concretely go out into the world to witness to love. This is so easy and wonderful to do with small children! Bake for neighbors, help others, help small creatures, wonder together! We also take a good look at what things are different in church – there are no flowers, for example, only branches. There is less and less music and singing. These very physical things in the Liturgy signify this is a different season.
For those ages 9-14, I like to talk about how Lent corresponds to the forty days Jesus was in the desert being tempted by Satan. God didn’t make Jesus do anything, but Jesus chose the hard things anyway. We can choose good choices, even when the good choices are hard. We talk about what we gain when we let things go, and how the spirit of Lent can open us to doing something positive – and then we take those concrete steps to do something positive for those around us and for ourselves. So many wonderful conversations around this!
For older teens ages 15 and up, I still like to talk about Lent and choices, but also about the choices we have inside of us and our attitudes, our attitude toward people and the least among us. We talk about how often the devil is not only in the world, but inside us in that we all have the ability choose good or evil, how we react to things, how we rise up. We have a choice to be selfish and think only of ourselves or do something more. The world is can be grey, the choices are not always easy or pat or rote, and older teenagers totally know and get this. However, just as the good choices of Jesus were for us, for humanity, we as human beings can also make choices that help others for the greater good of humanity. Love can become the meaning in the world if we choose that and let that flow. Rudolf Steiner wrote in his lecture “Love and Its Meaning In The World”: “We have to leave our acts of love behind in the world, but they are then a spiritual factor in the flow of the world events…..Love is the creative force in the world.” So, how do we bring love to the world? That is the question for the older teenager to find in themselves and in the gifts that they have to share with the world.
May we all send out love,