A Lenten meditation from the Vicar of Baghdad
Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday, and ends on Easter Eve (this year on 30th March). Many Christians treat this time as a way of preparation for Easter, but most of the country will be oblivious. Lent has fallen way down the multi-faith league tables – certainly beneath Eid and Diwali, but still a little way above Whitsun. In the public consciousness, it is fused with scoffing pancakes and giving up chocolate. But there’s scarcely a schoolboy who could explain its origins or significance: it isn’t on the National Curriculum, you see.
To mark the launch of the Reflections for Lent 2013 app (how cool is that) from Church House Publishing, Canon Andrew White, the vicar of St George’s Church, Baghdad, has written a special reflection. It focuses on how Lent is a special time to refocus on God.
Pause for a moment, right now, just for a few minutes, before you flit off to find the latest inane drivel on the Pope’s abdication. Read slowly, reflect and meditate:
Again we are about to enter the time of Lent, the time when we remember the time of Jesus fasting in the wilderness and the approach of Easter. For many it is the time they will give up something; hopefully for all followers of Christ it will also be the time they take up further spiritual reflection. Apps, books and e-books such as Reflections for Lent help us regain our right focus.The app is available from iTunes and contains daily reflections on Bible passages by four leading authors – the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell (Bishop of Chelmsford), the Rt Revd Steven Croft (Bishop of Sheffield), the Rev’d Barbara Mosse (tutor and lecturer) and the Rev’d Mark Oakley (Canon Chancellor of St Paul ’s Cathedral).
For those of us here in Iraq, Lent is longer and has a very real focus. Here Lent is preceded by two further important events. First is the fast of Jonah, three days with no food at all. Many will not even drink in this period. This remembers Jonah in the belly of the whale when he did not eat or drink. Then we come to the fast of Nineveh for 10 days leading into Lent. This remembers the fasting of the Assyrians, when they turned from their evil ways to the Almighty. The fact is that to this day all the Assyrians are Christian and all the Christians of Iraq come from Nineveh .
So for all in this land Lent is combined with the fast of Nineveh and is an intense time of giving thanks to the Lord for sending us a miserable evangelist in a submarine, but also a time of suffering and glory. In the midst of our immense suffering we remember the suffering of our Lord, culminating in his intense suffering on the Cross. That time though was also his greatest time of Glory and also our greatest time of glory. So this is a time when we all draw near to God and He draws near to us. There is no better time to do this than to find time to reflect.
Canon Andrew White, Baghdad
His Grace commends it to you – at £1.99, it costs less than a horseburger.