By Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher, Clarion Herald
I found myself sitting on a bench in the middle of campus. A break in the midst of the 10-minute walk between my office and classroom. The heaviness of my belly, even this early on, has already begun to slow me down.
It seems fitting for the Lenten season. My body forcing me – with its precious cargo – to stop, to rest, to move slower.
As I stopped in the midst of students rushing past, I looked around at the familiar buildings. I noticed not just the people seemingly flying by, but I was struck by small crosses with laminated signs, placed at intervals along the pathway. The signs were posted by Campus Ministry, each marked with an ashen cross, each containing a message of meditation.
How many students stopped to read, let alone see, them? I certainly hadn’t registered them before. How many other aspects of our lives do we allow to pass by, without a clear sense of awareness of what’s going on?
My students are currently reading Alfred Tennyson’s elegy, “In Memoriam A.H.H.” The poem spans the course of three years, narrating a meditation on the process of grief and loss.
In one of the early lyric sequences, Tennyson meditates: “And is it that the haze of grief/Makes former gladness loom so great?/The lowness of the present state/That sets the past in this relief?”
These lines question whether his grief has idealized the pleasures of the life that was lost, and the “former gladness” that arose due to the presence of his beloved friend. Tennyson sets the scene for the transformative powers of grief through recollection. All seems brighter, more idealistic, when viewed from the dark lens of sorrow.
But he goes further in the next stanza, seemingly answering his question: “Or that the past will always win/A glory from its being far/And orb into the perfect star/We saw not when we moved therein?” Here, Tennyson emphasizes that our memories – the past – will always convey a sense of glory, or perfection, due to a sense of distance.
In reflection, we see the things that “we saw not” when we were initially experiencing them.
In the moment, then, we often miss aspects that we – or those we leave behind – only recollect later. As my students and I honed in on this lyric, I couldn’t help but think of Lent and the necessity of meditation and preparation.
Last year, a friend of mine journaled during Lent, preparing quick notes of gratitude for each day. What he experienced was a transformation in his daily life.
He felt himself to be a bit more grateful, a bit kinder to those around him. He was ready to celebrate Easter because he had participated more fully in a Christ-like life.
What are we preparing ourselves for this Lenten season? Are we becoming more mindful of the everyday moments that are often missed because we’re hurriedly living our lives? Are we missing the celebration of Christ in our daily lives? Are we waiting until it’s too late to stop, to meditate, to see the aspects of our lives that “we saw not when we moved therein?”
Dr. Heather Bozant Witch er can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.