A Most Precious Space
Lent is a tree without blossom, without leaf,
Barer than blackthorn in its winter sleep,
All unadorned. Unlike Christmas which decrees
The setting-up, the dressing-up of trees,
Lent is a taking down, a stripping bare,
A starkness after all has been withdrawn
Of surplus and superfluous,
Leaving no hiding-place, only an emptiness
Between black branches, a most precious space
Before the leaf, before the time of flowers;
Lest we should see only the leaf, the flower,
Lest we should miss the stars.
Jean M. Watt
As I write a blanket of white covers the ground and the bare branches of the trees are dusted with snow. Dressed in her winter clothing, the earth is beautiful. It is in stark contrast to the greyness of many a Scottish winter day when leafless trees, sunless skies and endless hours of darkness speak to us of a world stripped back, longing for new life.
As Jean Watt’s poem suggests, Lent is a little like winter – bare, unadorned, without leaf or flower. Lent is an invitation to look inward. That can feel vulnerable, risky, even fearful, as we bare our souls both to ourselves and to God. Yet if we accept this invitation, we enter “a most precious space” – a space in which we can be still, ponder and meet ourselves in all our wonder and frailty. In the midst of this invitation to being stripped back, we can find surprising beauty, like the dusting of snow on bare branches.
As we prepare to enter the season of Lent may you open to its gifts. It is indeed a most precious space.