Years ago, I was standing at the entrance of the church where I was serving. It was a major feast day—I can’t remember which one—and the church was packed. As we waited, the prelude ended. And in the short silence between those final notes and everyone standing to sing the opening hymn, the seminarian working with me at the time leaned over and said, “I always feel that this moment in the service is like the safety bar coming down once you’ve entered one of the cars on a roller coaster. You hear the click, the car lurches forward, and you’re on your way. There’s no going back.”
If you are not a fan of rollercoasters, this image might not be very comforting. I love those sorts of rides, so I have never forgotten that description and the combination of exhilaration and full presence it invokes. We are faced with choices constantly, but there comes a time in every experience when the process of discernment is over and the step into commitment begins.
The seminarian was referring to the momentum of the liturgy; how, once the procession starts, the worship takes on a life of its own. We enter into the experience, carried by the architecture supporting the beginning, middle and end. I think the image also works for our liturgical seasons. Especially Lent, where we make intentional choices about how we are going to engage the six weeks of preparation for Easter.
We make our decisions, adding something, denying ourselves something, praying differently or more often, and our experience begins. The season moves forward. We are carried by the Spirit and the collective energies of our community and its observances; the highs, the lows, and all that is surprising in between.
May our ride through Lent this year be rich and full (maybe even exhilarating!). May we know the holy momentum of this season of penitence, and may our experiences open us in new ways to receive the joy of the Resurrection.