I am extremely bad at keeping any sort of positive routine, but I also really like to read about early Church practices. This means I end up trying to do things which would be brilliant for my spiritual discipline and then “forget” about them the second I taste bacon (as my weekly fast experiment taught me).
This is why I am very lucky to have a personal Lent tradition. I don’t just give something up for 40 days, nor do I start some new devotional or Bible reading plan (though I have enjoyed Christian Aid’s The Joy of Lent). Instead, I experiment; I challenge my own complacency, explore anew what it means for me to be a disciple and push my well-established boundaries.
This year I decided that I should go back to my beloved Didache (an early “How to Christian” book which almost made it into the New Testament), following an exciting theory that my mentor Michael Hardin is fond of mentioning. You see, the Didache includes instructions very similar to the Sermon on the Mount right before it mentions baptism, which has suggested to scholars that 1) those teachings were meant to be lived and 2) catechumens (baptism candidates) would actually have to live the Christian Way before they became part of the Body of Christ in baptism. Imagine that – a Chist-centred life most of us struggle to live as seasoned Christians was taught to people before they had joined the Church!
Now, since discovering Anabaptism I’ve tried to follow the maxim that “to know Christ is to follow him” but I told myself: why not actually try even harder this Lent, really commit to the whole thing and try to live as an early catechumen? After all, Lent comes before Easter, the very event that we incorporate in our being when we accept baptism.
I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet, but I expect it will mean grounding every day in prayer, fulfilling every action described in the Sermon on the Mount, finding a readable Didache translation, and let God guide my feet into the way of Peace (probably by studying Walter Wink’s Jesus’ Third Way again, or the Quakers’ Advice & Queries). That sounds like a lot, but at least if I set such high goals for myself, I shan’t feel too naughty for getting only a third of this done!
What I know for sure though is that this year as well SCM will provide us with amazing resources to make this Lent a good and meaningful one, and in the meantime I’ve already signed myself up for a couple of the ones we shared last year!
Written by Simone Ramacci, SCM Member and part of Progressive Christians Essex.