When your children ask you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your children, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors.”
I am writing this post on Ash Wednesday. Today, however, I’m thinking about a Daily Office reading from the day before: a selection from the Book of Deuteronomy.
The title of the book comes from the Greek—itself a translation from the original Hebrew—meaning “second law” or “copy of the law.” It is a retelling of the story of Exodus, and the Law contained therein, right as the people of Israel sit on the edge of the river Jordan, waiting to enter the Promised Land.
He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, the passage reads. I’ve been sitting with those words. I’ve been wondering what it means to sit in that in-between place—the space between Egypt and the Promised Land; the journey between those words.
You could say that is exactly what Lent is meant to be, the road from death and despair into newfound hope and resurrection. You could also say that we have been in the midst of a seemingly unending Lent already—the pandemic lockdowns first took hold in the middle of Lent last year. Little did we know how long this road would be! The seasons of the church year, you see, are meant to be just that: seasons. We fast, and we feast, and we acknowledge that neither is the full answer—that, like it or not, life is made up of a complicated dance between the two. Lately, however, we have had a lot of fasting, and little in the way of feasting.
When so much has already been taken from us, it might seem a little cruel to step into another fasting season. I wonder, therefore, if we could take a leaf from the book of the Israelites: those familiar with long, drawn-out journeys but whose hope holds steadfast nonetheless. Just what is God bringing you out of, this season? And what new thing might God be inviting you into?
He brought us out from there in order to bring us in. The beauty in that sentence is in the forward motion, the invitation out of the old and into the new. May we keep a Holy Lent this year: ever mindful of that which we must leave behind, and ever hopeful for what God has in store on the other side.
—Fr. JavierTags: From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey