The time of penance has come, the time to atone for our sins and to seek our salvation. (from today's midmorning prayer)
The first week of Lent is always something of a time of transition - it seems to take me a little while to get acclimated to the spirit of continual penance. On Ash Wednesday our priest spoke about the joys of fasting and how it can't help but draw us closer to God, how our empty stomachs facilitate a longing for intimacy with Our Lord. On the way home in the car I told Michael I wasn't doing very well spiritually - the only thing fasting made me long for was the day to be over. Those first cups of sugarless tea, those first rumblings of hunger left ignored always come as a bit of a shock to my coddled, indulgent, fleshy self. And so it takes a few days to progress beyond the flesh's resentment to the 'spiritual sugar that takes away the bitterness of mortification' that St. Francis de Sales describes.
So we've been gradually settling in to the rhythms that we will follow for the forty day journey. The festive decorations of last month have been replaced with our 'Lenten decor'.
I am a very visual person and I like to have lots of observable reminders of the season around the house. I really like the little prayer cards I place all around for Advent with the St. Andrew prayer on them, and I wanted to do something similar for Lent. I love the way the cards just stop me in my tracks, both literally and figuratively in my thought patterns as I pause for a brief prayer and to remember. So today I made these little prayer cards for Lent with the prayer, 'We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.'
I printed them out on a piece of scrapbook paper, ten to a page, and then glued those onto brown cardstock. The children all wanted brown to better call to mind the cross and to be different from the purple ones of Advent. We added a sticker of a cross or a picture of Our Lord to each one, and then stuck them all over the house in all sorts of mundane places. Very simple.
Today we started the Jesus Tree Scripture study that Jessica shared on her blog. We will be making the felt symbols each day as we go along, and we plan to hang them on a tree branch rather than a banner. Here is Lydia's drawing of the Presentation and two turtle doves. We don't have the kit that Jessica has so we're just winging it (pun intended, hee):
We are also using the cross visual as a way to encourage works of mercy and other sacrifices. See this old post for more on this idea. It's really precious to read some of the sacrifices.
And on our purple draped altar we have this simple wreath with a card of Ecce Homo that one of my customers kindly sent me. Isn't it beautiful?
I put the Universalis link as a sticky post up top as a visual reminder as well. Although to be honest I prefer the translations used at ebreviary as they are the same as in my prayer book, but ebreviary does not have all of the prayers for free on their site like Universalis does. They do have night prayer for every day, and in a nice format to print out. As night prayer is mostly a weekly cycle it would be easy to print out a week's worth of booklets to be able to use these beautiful prayers with the whole family. I try to pray morning and night prayer every day, and add extra hours if I am able to fit them in during the day.
And finally I've been encouraging less frivolous reading and more substantial, appropriate Lenten fare.
So far, people are taking the bait of this round of blatantly 'strewed' books.
Just look at this dear one-
So I'd say we are all finally settling in to the ways and means of Lent in our family. :-)
Edited to add: Here's a pdf of the prayer cards: Download We adore You