Here we are in Lent again, that austere time of preparation and waiting…only of course it isn’t, or certainly isn’t all the time, for right in the middle is almost another season, or a different, rather jolly Lent. In quick succession we have the feasts of Patrick and Benedict, of Joseph and Mary. On 21st we had the vernal equinox (or equilux as I’ve seen it referred to; is that a thing now?), spring is bursting out all around us and this Sunday is Laetare, rejoicing Sunday, because we are half-way through Lent, which we mark this year by leaping forward into British Summer Time (I hope you didn’t forget!) Oh, and the monastery fish have woken up and have definitely abandoned their winter fast.
Patrick and Benedict are feasts of identity and heritage; they can tell us how we got here, something my ancestors have been quite good at forgetting. Patrick reminds me of my Hibernian half (Kellys and Carneys), though they came to Lancashire so long ago that no one can remember where they came from before that. My English ancestors were no better at remembering where they were from either (Brill, as it turns out). Benedict is rather a niche identifier, but without him I would not be here and certainly not writing this now.
That’s how I got to this point, but where am I going? That’s what our next two feasts are about. Jesus, the God Man takes on our form of life that we may share in his. For that to happen he needs a human mother, someone who will accept him into her life, and she needs a family around her, she needs Joseph who accepts her into his life. Both are faced with a mystery, inexplicable, almost cruel seeming, yet utterly compelling. The feasts of St Joseph and of the Annunciation are feasts of the Incarnation, of Jesus and although they point to next Christmas, nine months away, that’s just liturgical ordering; what they really are about is what happens next for us. What it means for God to live among you and me, which is the subject of Holy Week. Only then do we get to see what it means for us to live with God; that is Easter, something that has been happening to us all along, but which we never finish growing ever deeper into, year after year.