I was walking down Ponsonby Rd in Auckland when this shop window caught my eye. TRANSCENDENCE – SALE. What a lovely juxtaposition to ponder, what a challenge to our attitudes it contains.
In religion, transcendence is a way of describing the aspects of a Gods nature and power that are not confined by the physical universe. It is the very divine ‘other’ elements of God, that rise above our ordinary existence. Contrast that with the sale sign and it says something powerful about our current attitudes and way of being in the world. Oh, how we long for the experience of transcendence, an out of the world connection to the divine. We long for it, we look for it, but we remain too bogged down in our own ordinariness to pay full price.
The contrast of the words in this shop window draws our attention back to Lent. Lent (we are currently in Lent, the time of spiritual preparation for the Easter celebrations) is all about juxtapositions, contrasts, oppositional forces. In the Easter narrative, we see the forces of humanity and divinity that lie in direct contrast with each other, we notice the contrast between who we are and who God is and we observe the juxtaposition between death and life that leads towards the culmination of the story – the resurrection. Lent is a time where we become aware of the contrast between transcendence and ordinary humanity by trying to place limits on some of our ordinary human wants. Through fasting we are trying to step from our ordinariness in an attempt to see transcendence breaking though, I associate those moments with the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Fasting is one of the ways that I can say I know this doesn’t come cheap but I am willing to pay because I long to see more transcendence, more of the Holy Spirit. But the question arises just what or how much am I willing to pay. I have fought the notion that those moments of communion with the Holy Spirit only occur through silence and time alone, surely God who created us to be mothers and to work finds ways to break through when we are cooking meals and listening to the constant chatter of an 8-year-old. Surely there are ways and rhythms where God can find me even in the busyness – I am still convinced there must be. Yet for me as someone who needs time alone to recharge, there seems to be something particularly helpful about being relaxed and open in the quiet that allows the creative breath of God to whisper to me. The quiet and restful space that allows my awareness to turn to the transcendent and ever-present God. Like clothes from boutiques in Ponsonby this silence comes at a price, I must be prepared to pay the cost of sleep or productivity.
During lent I can see the resurrection as a clear demonstration of the transcendence of God, and it draws me on, pulls me in. Once pulled in I can see the power in the juxtaposition of Jesus being fully divine and fully human. Because it is those touches of the transcendent Holy Spirit that I experience that allows me to embrace the full humanness of my existence, renovated, restored and made whole again.
Perhaps that is what Lent is about, it is about exploring that juxtaposition of human, ordinary physicality and the transcendence or divine mystery and how they came together in Jesus and his presence and in the continued presence of the Holy Spirit in our day to day life.
How is the Holy Spirit speaking to you this Lent?