Ash Wednesday: The Vine, the Path, the Way

The first day of Lent always catches me off-guard, no matter how long I’ve been planning ahead for it. I even spent hours preparing devotional reflections and prayers and projects to help others take this journey. But Ash Wednesday morning broke, and my own fasting began–ready-or-not.

I should be ready for Lent. I’ve been looking down the road at it as it edged closer. But now it’s here, and this road to Jerusalem stretches ahead, and I don’t feel quite ready to step on.

Last year we visited family in France over spring break, and I had the opportunity to check off a HUGE bucket list item: to walk the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. It opens for pilgrims beginning in Lent, and on the Friday prior to Palm Sunday, we took the train from Paris to Chartres, then wound through the town up to the Cathedral. I’d had months before our trip, and the flight, and the train ride–plenty of time to read all the guidebooks and review a favorite labyrinth text so I’d be all to be ready to step into the Cathedral doors and straight onto the labyrinth path…

…then suddenly (it seemed) I found myself there, and I still somehow felt, even as I stood at the entrance to the ancient way I’d waited so long to reach, that I was ill-prepared to walk it.

I was with husband, and parents, and kids, and I was the reason we’d made the trip that day… and I couldn’t just stop and sit and wait to be ready. I was there. The path was open. Ready or not.

I’m feeling the same hesitance and obligation about this Lent. The day is here. And I’m here. The path is open. And maybe there’s more I could have done to make myself ready… or maybe not. Maybe I bring with me all the discomfort and dis-ease, and I do the only thing I can do: I start walking with it.

Maybe it’s all any of us are ever doing, on this path we share, no matter how alone we may feel on it.

On the Lenten road, we’re following Jesus to Jerusalem–not only following on the way to his death, but following in the way that he lived. The icon that is inspiring me this season was “written” by a French sister, who titled it “Suis Moi”–Follow Me. In it the True Vine winds in tendrils reminiscent of the lines on a map, or the spirals of a labyrinth pathway, around and through stories of calling and coming-along.

This is the Way, and it invites us, whether we feel we’re ready or not.

This is the Way, and it is open before us.

This is the Way, and it is already ours–to walk, to crawl, to sit and rest, to skip like a child, to touch hands as we come alongside each other.

This is the Way that began in the dust from which we were made, and ends in the dust we will become–the Way from creation to re-creation.

Let’s begin.

A few links (these are not affiliate links, just informational!):

You can find the “Suis Moi” icon at The Printery House of Conception Abbey.

The wooden labyrinth is from the shop WestlandsCo on Etsy.

The thoughts I’ll be sharing here will coordinate with the reflections/prayers I included in my Lent AltarBox/AltarKits at A Moving Yarn on Etsy. A few small kits are still available; they include an icon card, 7×7 labyrinth cloth, and reflection/prayer guide.

Also available at A Moving Yarn: a downloadable PDF of just the guide and breath prayers, ready to print and with permission to copy and share.

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