Lent is here at the Béguinage—forty days of wilderness walking. Some of the signs are the purple altar drapings, and no lace in evidence. (That does not mean I am not doing any lace but no lace surprise appearances in the church.) No flowers adorn the altar and in general all is barren, even somber—the Lenten fast. The church has a feeling of waiting and reflection reminding us of the days leading to our Lord’s Passion. Yesterday, however, the gardener was trimming the wisteria trunks in the convent cloister. They are way beyond “vines,” having lived and grown old in the cloister, as we nuns do, undoubtedly many a year. Branches and vines lay askew on the ground ready for removal; but one stray forked branch was salvaged, rescued for a sacred mission, most assuredly by the flower sister. The vine appeared in front of the altar, a barren dead branch, the wilderness.
The convent also has its Lenten wilderness; there is no recreation time on Fridays (the day of our Lord’s crucifixion) leaving more time for spiritual reading and reflection. The meals are simpler and no special desserts, perhaps a packaged cake or wafel but none of the cook’s special treats. Also, no surprise cookies or chocolates on Sundays. There will be time enough for feasting on Easter. Even the graces sung at meals during Lent have a minor tone or key. The reminders are all around: a barrenness to this time of wilderness walking to the feast and celebration of the Resurrection of Easter. We know the joyful end of the story!