March 27 – “Lent,” in Anglo-Saxon, means “Spring”

Friday, March 27 – “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things”

“In the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the vernacular instead of Latin, the English word lent was adopted. This word initially simply meant spring (as in the German language Lenz and Dutch lente) and derives from the Germanic root for long because in the spring the days visibly lengthen.”   Wikipedia   The English spoken in the United States is inherited from England, a blend of Anglo-Saxon (German roots) and French (from the Norman Conquest).  Our word “Lent” comes from German/Anglo-Saxon roots, an inheritance from northern Europe (Wikipedia could tell of other names in other climates for this season of 40 days leading to Easter).

In our climate, you might say that “Spring” means the season when trees and shrubs and flowers and grass look dead and very gradually tell the careful observer that they are coming back to life.  Very gradually.  For some years, I’ve followed a ritual to remind myself about how slowly this happens:  I look for a large shrub or a low-hanging tree branch somewhere along a pathway I walk.  I stop nearby, close enough that I can look at one twig on one branch from a distance of 6 to 8 inches and look at the twig for half a minute or so, paying attention to signs of rebirth.   I try to remember to stop there 3-4 times a week.   From day to day not much new appears.  Very gradual. Little by little this attention is rewarded by delicate hints of rebirth.

Stopping and looking is a form of Lenten prayer and helps more than giving up candy or beer, stopping and looking at a twig on a shrub can be a metaphor for close watching other parts of life and waiting there in hope: a  child growing up;  a city laboring through bankruptcy; a Congress waiting to learn civility again.  A university teeming with people trying to learn, trying to teach, trying to renew its day to day operations.  Beauty all around us.

The growing length of daylight during this year’s Lent comes to about 3 minutes more light each day.

Have a blest weekend.


john sj


Today’s Post:   Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj  “God’s Grandeur”

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins  28 July 1844 – 8 June, 1889

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