“Lencten” the old English word for spring or springtime. It’s about the lengthening of the days, the returning of the light, the renewal of life. The season of Lent derives its name from the name of spring, it is about renewal, about change.
The story of Jesus of Nazareth spending forty days in the wilderness was about him coming through it stronger, renewed. Lent is a state of mind. It is about becoming a new person. It is about challenging attitudes, especially one’s own.
Colm Tóibín’s novel The Master asks questions about attitudes, about the demonising of others. It asks questions about a lack of respect for those of other traditions, about the easy deafness to those hurt by entrenched ways.
“’William suffers sometimes. His dark dreams overwhelm him, and when I first learned that about him I wanted him away from me. I wished to be elsewhere when he seemed ready to give into the darkness. There was nothing I could do for him, but I have learned, just as the boys and Peggy have learned, that it does not take much to comfort him.’
Henry attempted to convey by his silence that he would listen to her with sympathy for as long as she wished to speak.
‘Peggy was a very difficult child,’ Alice went on, ‘and night after night she would scream when she was in bed as the light was turned off. And because we thought that she would have to learn to sleep in the dark we left her screaming. We thought that there was no earthly reason for it, but there was. A nun had assured her that her not being a Catholic would mean eternal damnation and she believed her. That was why she screamed. We realized that if we had asked her at the beginning why she was afraid, she might have told us.’
Henry moved to put more logs on the fire and they sat in a silence broken only by the mild sea wind and the crackling of the burning wood”.
A lengthening of the days that brings renewal would mean pondering the sort of questions that Tóibín raised.
What things have been said that have caused people unnecessary pain or fear?
Has there been courage to speak about what is feared?
Has there been the strength to cope with the fears of others?
What is there that has been untold?
Lent is a time of questioning.