Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Interview with Cate MacDonald

Hi folks! Ash Wednesday is fast approaching, and to prepare for that, today I have an interview with Cate MacDonald, the author of the Lent chapter in "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home".

Me: Hi Cate - it's so good to have you here today! You’re the author of the Lent chapter in "Let Us Keep the Feast", so I wanted to start by asking you: what’s your strongest Lenten memory, good or bad?

Cate: My strongest Lenten memory is my first Ash Wednesday service. I didn't grow up in a liturgical church, so my first service was at the Anglican church I went to in college. I can still remember the incredible beauty of the low-lit nave and the solemnity of the service. It was unlike anything I'd experienced in church before; it was simultaneously rich and heartbreaking, as it should be given what it begins. It introduced me to Lent in a way that would stick with me for years, as since that time Lent has always been a special season for my heart.

Me: Thank you for sharing that memory. And it leads really well into my next question: what do you think the heart of the Lenten season is?

Cate: I think the heart of Lent is quiet. We spend that forty days quieting our hearts, heads, and bodies (Eliot's Ash Wednesday explores this well).

Lent is a time for doing well something that we tend to do very badly: sit in our limitations for the sake of understanding Christ's sacrifice. We fast to quiet our hearts and bodies and remind ourselves that we can't do all things all the time without harming ourselves. We quiet our church services, and remember the more somber truths of the Christian life. We embrace solemnity, which is hard. But really, we get quiet, and we remember that we are only who we are, and Christ is (thank God) who He is.

Me: I think my favorite part of your chapter was when you said, “Lent is hard and Lent is long, and so Lent is really good for us.”

So, as you were researching, did you discover anything about the season that surprised you?

Cate: I think, as with much of the Church year and liturgy, I was impressed by the pervasiveness of Lent throughout the world, which is something that us Evangelicals often lose sight of. As an example of this forgetfulness, I was teaching a class on Eliot's Ash Wednesday last week. When I asked if anyone in the primarily Baptist classroom knew what Lent was, one Senior answered, "it's that Catholic thing." He's right in one way: if we take his statement to mean catholic in the sense of the universal church, then yes, that's what Lent is.

Me: Yes, it’s comforting to remember that all of the church year is for all of the church. So, finally, which section of your chapter was the most fun to write?

Cate: For the Very Young! I'd not thought about how children could and should experience Lent, and what might help them to understand it. I used to teach preschool, and remember the challenge of communicating complex biblical concepts to little ones. I really enjoyed thinking through that process for Lent.

Me: Thanks so much, Cate!

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