Each week of Lent, we’ll provide an Ignatian prayer for you, inspired by a video from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for the Fifth Week of Lent, Cycle B, are based on John 12:20–33. The art is Vincent van Gogh’s “The Sower.”
Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
It can be difficult to let go of the golden seeds we have, with care, collected and saved in anticipation of spring. Snow covers the ground of our hearts. It is still too cold to let them go. Prayer requires release. And release requires a great courage that allows body and mind and heart to open and to be still. We begin with attention to each.
First your body: Sit upright, legs crossed or not, feet on the floor or not, lower back pressed against the chair. Or not. Open your hands. Let the seeds fall or rest gently in them. Breathe.
Now your mind: As you are able, let these words through you like the seeds through the cold air, down your spine and into the earth. Let your thoughts puff away with each breath. As new ones come—knotted as they are with joy or pain—hold them like wounded birds. Set them aside to heal. Breathe.
And your heart: Vulnerability means able to be wounded. Of course there is resistance. Notice it, and then kneel in the cold, black dirt, and tuck the seeds deep into the cut soil. With your breath and with energy, push them in. Open your heart. Breathe.
Tilt your chin up to the heavens and, with eyes open or closed, look back at the One who gazes at you with great affection.
Like Van Gogh’s sower or like Jesus in the Gospel, in the scarcity and threat of winter we hold close what was given to us in the summer: the memory of a time we were loved; the security and calm of companionship; our lives as they tick along. Perhaps these are our golden seeds, remnants of an abundance that has passed us by.
- Where are you in the scene? Are you the sower? An observer?
- Notice how the ground feels under your feet as you walk the rows. What warmth does the light bring?
- Notice the sower’s face as he pulls the sun-burnished seeds from his purse. What do these weightless kernels mean to him? How does he feel as they fall from his hand?
- How do you feel? What seeds do you hold? What have you held close to protect it from the cold?
- Can you pull those seeds from your purse?
It can feel impossible to let go of what we have been given, to release into the crusted ground what has brought us life. It requires an outrageous courage, an irrational trust in a still-dead world to believe that what dies produces fruit.
Even more, the frosted skin of the soil must be slashed for the seeds to be planted. They must enter the wound.
- How does it feel to imagine turning over your hand?
- Do the seeds carry the golden light as they fall?
- What is it like as they enter the furrowed ground?
But perhaps it is not we who sow. Perhaps it is the Lord who sows and we who are the field.
- How has God prepared this cold ground for the gift of these seeds? What is God placing within us?
- How does it feel to be warmed be the setting sun? Is there any opening to what God is attempting to give?
- Are there wounds that you would like the Lord to plant seeds of hope within?
- Can you ask for what you desire?
Ours is a God who sows before the setting sun, who sows before night falls. Speak with the Lord now about what has happened in your prayer. Whether you have felt drawn to watch or to sow or to be a recipient of the good seed, speak with the Lord about what has happened, as one friend speaks to another.
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
If your parish is celebrating the RCIA scrutinies, see the video and reflection for Cycle A here.