St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Lent at St. Stephen's

 
Returning to the Sacred Presence
 
One of the greatest theologians the world has ever known, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), wrote about his prolonged, drawn-out search for God and the revelation he finally had that God had been with him all along:
 
I have learnt to love you late, Beauty at once so ancient and so new!  I have learnt to love you late!  You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself.  I searched for you outside myself….  You were with me, but I was not with you.
     Confessions, Book X.27
 
Waking to the reality of this very present Eternal Life, this “Beauty ever ancient, ever new,” is a transforming experience.  This life-giving Presence is always with us and within us.  The problem, of course, is that we are often distracted by many cares and occupations that keep us far away from God and from ourselves.  It is as if we spend much of our lives wandering “in a land that is waste,” while God constantly calls to us to return – return to ourselves, to our true life in God.
 
The forty days of Lent serve as a time for Christians to return to the Sacred Presence, to the God who has never left us, even though at times we have been far away.  Lent is a time to renew classic disciplines of prayer and reflection, as well as ancient practices such as fasting and Bible study.  All of this is designed to renew a right spirit within us and to prepare us for the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection at Easter.
 
Lent always begins with a day of special devotion and discipline known as “Ash Wednesday” which this year falls on March 5.  The traditional worship for this day is especially powerful and calls for the “imposition of ashes.”  Parishioners are invited to come forward to receive the imprint of ashes on their foreheads, as a sign of their mortality.  In this stark way, we are put in mind of the difference between those things that are passing away and those things that endure forever.
 
Following are some opportunities designed to help you in your observance of a holy Lent and prepare you for a return to the Sacred Life and Beauty that is always with you.
 
Ash Wednesday services
Wednesday, March 5 | 7:30 a.m. | noon | 5:30 p.m.
There will be no weekday Morning Prayer service nor Wonderful Wednesdays supper that day.
 
 
Lenten retreat with Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
Friday, March 7 & Saturday, March 8
Brothers from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal/Anglican religious order for men, visit St. Stephen's each year to begin Lent with us. This year's visitor will be Br. Curtis Almquist.
 
Books for Lenten reading
 
The Bookshop @ St. Stephen's offers a wonderful selection of books suitable for Lenten reading, including:
 
40-Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited by Lisa E. Dahill
Daily readings from medieval mystic Julian of Norwich are combined with segments from scripture, questions for meditation, and prayers. Further opportunities for reflection are provided with journaling prompts, including guidance on how to start and keep a daily journal.
Resurrecting Easter: Meditations for the Great 50 Days by Kate Moorehead
Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent by Richard Rohr
A perennial favorite in the Bookshop, Richard Rohr returns with a set of brief yet powerful daily meditations for Lent. The product of a Lenten retreat to Arizona in recent years, in this book Rohr offers his thoughts for “our transformation into our ‘original image and likeness,’ which, we are told, is the very image of God.”

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter—C. S. Lewis, Barbara Brown Taylor, Meister Eckhart, and others
Disciples on the Way by Carol Mead—a daily devotional from Forward Movement (publisher of Forward Day by Day)
The Desert: An Anthology for Lent—Thomas à Kempis, Mother Mary Clare, Teresa of Avila, and others
Gifts from Within: Women’s Meditations for Lent—daily devotions by the women of Brigid’s Place, a non-profit initiative on women’s spirituality from Christ Church Cathedral, Houston, Texas
The Rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist
 
Other resources
Other offerings include "Brother, Give Us a Word" and "Love Life," daily video reflections, both from the Society of St. John the Evangelist. You may learn more from their Web site.
 
At Information Central (the large table outside the parish office), you will find copies of the Lenten reflections booklet from Westminster-Canterbury of Richmond; copies of Forward Day by Day (daily devotions; $1); and brochures outlining the annual Lenten preaching series and lunches at St. Paul's Church on East Grace Street.
 
Remember our Weekly Bible Study, which you may read on this Web site, or receive via email.