There is only one Feast in the Rule of St. Benedict –Holy Easter and the 40 days of Lent leading up to the 50 days of Easter—the Holy Pasch. Benedict says almost nothing about how to celebrate the season (liturgically) but he has everything to say about how to live the season. Chapter 49 he talks about fasting, weeping, praying, keeping silence, sleeping less etc. According to St. Benedict,” the life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent” For a monastic, Lent is the process of emptying ourselves. If we are always filled, satisfied, always have the best, constantly feasting, totally satisfied – there is no room for the Spirit to fill us with new life. Our job during Lent is to try to hollow out a place for God’s Spirit. Benedict says this should be our daily goal. A paraphrase of the rule should be: every day and season of Monastic life should resemble the 40 days of Lent. During this time, each of us in the joy of the Holy Spirit looks forward to Holy Easter with “intense spiritual desire.” The pattern for this is found in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he says, “Your attitude must be that of Christ: “though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and because of this, God highly exalted him…” The paradox here is – as Jesus emptied himself, he was exalted. This is one of the many paradoxes we find in the gospels. The one who clings to life loses it. The one who loses life for Jesus’ sake finds it. If we empty ourselves, we will be filled, etc. The Gospels also tell us that when we empty ourselves of hatred, vengeance, condemnation, etc. we will be filled. “Give and it shall be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over…”
Ash Wednesday initiates us into the season of Lent today with a signing of ashes upon our forehead. What is it that we can humbly empty ourselves of, so that God may fill us?