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Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt

Standing at the Lectern at the new All Saints Church in the Deanery of Waterloo, Bishop Townshend offered these words of prayer as a part of the Consecration Service.

“We give thanks for the words of human speech that give voice to thought and feeling. We give thanks for the words which here proclaim the story of your eternal Word.”

In 2024, February 14th marks St Valentine’s Day, and Ash Wednesday. Both days herald an expression of love which is experienced in unique ways.

For many, telling someone else how important they are for us is as simple, and as difficult, as saying, ’I love you”, for the first time.

That place, everything special about that moment in our lives remains indelibly etched in our hearts and minds. We use “words of human speech that give voice to thought and feeling.” 

An entire industry has been generated to relieve us of having to find the “right” words to convey our emotions. Around St Valentine’s Day, cards decorated with hearts, usually accompanied by flowers and chocolates were seen as a measure of affection. These days, a brief email, filled with emoji heart symbols may be deemed to be sufficient.

In the Diocese of Huron, Stratford is a focal point of pilgrimage for faithful devotees of Shakespeare’s work. It seems to me that his words, whose impact have lasted through the years, ”give voice to thought and feeling.”

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,

Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

           For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings

           That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

(Sonnet 29)

The mark of cool ashes on our foreheads in the form of a Cross also is an expression of love.

Divine love is a transformative love, a love offered with an immensity, an intensity and a consistency which sometimes may prove to be beyond our comprehension. Divine love stands in sharp contrast to a human expression of love with all of the human weaknesses which are attached to it.

The Season of Lent offers a time when we, as people of faith may take time, for, “self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting and self-denial, and by reading and meditation upon God’s holy Word”. (BCP pg. 612)

How is it possible for us to have a positive impact on the world around us, if we are not at peace with ourselves?

A more contemporary wordsmith offers this insight:

I’m starting with the man in the mirror

I’m asking him to change his ways

And no message could have been any clearer

if you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself and then make a change.

(Michael Jackson - The Man in the Mirror)

Sometimes, there are moments when words fail us, or are insufficient, as we seek to give expression to our thoughts and feelings. Sometimes words hurt instead of heal.

How often have we misunderstood or have been misunderstood ourselves! How often have we begun a response with the phrase, ”What I thought I heard you say…”, only to be told that what we thought we heard did not come close to what was being expressed?

As we struggle to find the right words to give ”voice to thought and feeling”, another option may be to use the gift of silence to listen. Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit moving within us may generate the kind of transformative experience that the Season of Lent can offer. Perhaps with that change, we may discover meaningful ways in which we may express our love for each other.

May the Season of Lent be a time of meaningful reflection for us all.   

Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full-time parish ministry but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.