[Uucf-bible] Ash Wednesday/Lent Meditations
RevRonRobinson at aol.com
RevRonRobinson at aol.com
Wed Feb 21 10:31:33 EST 2007
>From "For Everything There Is A Season" by Wallace W. Robbins, 1910-1988,
first published in 1978 and republished in 1987 by the UUCF.
During this time from Ash Wednesday, through Lent, to Palm Sunday, Maundy
Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, we will be publishing excerpts from the
Robbins meditation manual. The first is the following Ash Wednesday meditation, and
next to come will be thirteen Lenten meditations in the weeks leading up to
Holy Week. Below the meditation is a brief biography of Rev. Robbins.
"Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, comes upon this week, and the entire
Western Church enters into a time of abstinence and meditation as contemporary
Christians retrace the road of Jesus from the Mount of Transfiguration to the
hill of execution.
"In an earlier time this vigil was for forty hours but it was finally
extended to forty days. As the Sundays were excluded, they being always days of
joyful worship, the beginning of Lent was set back to Wednesday to allow for the
full forty days.
"It is noticeable that although changes have taken place in the rules
governing the intensity of fasting and meditation and in the length of time from
hours to days, the one consistency is in the number forty. Forty hours or forty
days; it appears of lasting significance that it be forty. Probably this number
was agreed upon to correspond with the number of days Jesus spent in the
wilderness before he took up his destiny as the serving King. But these forty days
had their prefiguration also: the days of the flood, the years of wandering in
the wilderness, the days of Elijah's fast.
"Forty is a biblical symbol for temptation, a word considerably devalued in
present currency to mean the allure of evil. We have come to think of that part
of the Lord's Prayer as simply a plea that we be kept out of those situations
which are occasions of sin. Typically, modern usage makes the situation of
temptation an outward matter. Help man to be clear of outward conditions and you
will have cleared his soul of inner turmoil.
"Prohibition dealt with alcoholic abuse in this outward fashion, but, because
of the inner compulsions of the addicted and of those rebellious against all
authority, the situation became worse.
"The biblical "forty" stands for a different understanding of temptation. It
is the tension which one feels in his heart when he sees that victory lies
ahead and that safety means turning back. He may wish that the conditions which
have brought him to this trial of soul had never come to pass, but since they
have, the testing is not in his ability to resolve the conflict but to endure
it and, ever in fear, to press forward. The real victory is not to be measured
by the success of the action, but by the inner success even in the face of
"Nomadic Israel in the wilderness for forty years was not victorius in any
achievement except that of survival as a loyal people. Neither by outer attack
or by inner dissension could the ultimate integrity of Israel be broken and
that inner strength was all and sufficient.
"Jesus emerged from his personal journey in the wilderness confirmed in his
Jewish vision of what constitutes passing the test, the cleared vision of man
as built from the inside out and not made by the laws of state, the rituals of
religion, the allurements of pomp and circumstance.
"To reflect upon this inner meaning of nations and of men is the business of
---Born in New Bedford, Mass., in 1910, and educated for the ministry at
Tufts and Meadville, Wallace Woodsome Robbins served our movement in Alton,
Illinois, Unity Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, as president of Meadville Theological
School and as a professor in the Federated Theological Faculty at the
University of Chicago, and as the long-time minister of the First Unitarian Church in
Worcester, Mass. His mission, he often said, was "to make Christians more
liberal and liberals more Christian."
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