Today we enter the paradox that is Lent.
From today we are no longer in Ordinary Time which, in itself, is a wonderful concept - we are now in Extraordinary Time; as near a 'real time' example of Kairos time, God's own time, as we are likely to experience in this life.
By time (?) you get to my age you are already aware that time is not as simple as it is supposed. The clock may tick at its regulated rhythm but the passing of moments, hours and days have no predictable pattern; dragging or racing with an urgency or ennui of their own.
We have our traditions; the ashes we use this Wednesday are made from the leftover palms of the previous Palm Sunday. The mark of our beginning created from the failed triumph of last year's entry into Jesus' place of execution - back and forth.
The Forty Days are not even forty days. The intention to recall the time Jesus spent in the desert after his Baptism, is punctuated by the Sabbaths - as we share the journey towards death we are constantly reminded of the Resurrection which is to come; to travel without the benefit of hindsight is almost impossible - back and forth.
Across the world there will be the emptying out of flowers and easily removeable paintings, photos and statues from the body of the church; soon the bigger statues and stations of the cross will be shrouded in purple robes - 'all the better to not see you with, my dears'. Drawing our attention to what we had taken for granted all these months; like God, their presence made more intense by their absence - back and forth.
A personal symbol for me in Lent is the spiral and the labyrinth. An illogical and unworldly path; from circumference to centre no more than a step - yet it can take ten minutes to follow the twists and turns that draws the spirit in. A labyrinth illustrating this strange inward turning journey; this walk into a desert landscape; this voyage without landmarks.
Simply following a yearning into the centre; into our centre; into Godspace. And then having no alternative but to spiral out again; a gyroscope of faith - back and forth.
Like Advent, the world is keen to distract us from the journey - the chocolate we may be intending to forego is already on display - promising that the next weeks will be all worthwhile.
They will be - but the proving won't be in the lost inches and pounds.
In Lent, we make the choice to turn again; to become unworldly; to escape the expectations. We choose to accept what life truly means. We choose to deny ourselves the distractions that keep us from living an authentic life. If we take this denial seriously we accept some suffering rather than questioning the need for it; somehow we understand the need. That there is solidarity in suffering...solidarity with a God who chose to suffer to set us free; who, in some Kairos moment, continues to suffer and who needs us, in our freedom, to chose to walk beside him.