Date: Saturday, Mar 4
Contributor: Connie Hendrick
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Many decades ago, before the Internet and personal computers and online language databases, I studied Middle English as a graduate student. It was the age of pen and paper, manual typewriters, and vinyl records. We listened for hours to recordings of Middle English prose and poems, eventually reciting along with the well-known pieces. And when the word Lenten was heard, I knew the poem/song following would describe exuberant, riotous, and earthy springtime.
Lenten ys come with love to toune,
With blosmen ant with briddes roune,
That al this blisse bryngeth.
(From: The Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript)
I understood that springtime comes with love to town, with blossoms and birds’ secret songs, bringing all this bliss.
The Middle English noun Lenten means springtime, derived from the Old English lencten (the lengthening of daylight hours, spring, springtime) and related to Old High German lenzin (spring). Eventually the term Lenten or Lent acquired a specialized usage describing the 40 day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, a period of abstinence and penance. And yes, it takes place in springtime and the lengthening of daylight, but how do I reconcile our modern penitential Lent with the exuberant Lenten of Middle English prose and poetry. Perhaps my focus will be that both, conceptually, are about renewal and love. Matthew’s verses in today’s gospel speak of love.
And Lenten has come with love to town.