In our courtyard orange and grapefruit trees bear flowers and fruit at the same time. It is amazing and wonderful. The scent of the orange blossoms draws me outside to delight in the warm sunshine and the fragrance perfumed air.
The purpose of the oranges and grapefruit is all there at the same time; shiny green leaves, white flowers and bright orange and yellow grapefruit. In most other plants and trees, we see the progress, from seed to seedling, leaves on a growing tree, flowers and eventually the ripening fruit.
But Citrus are evergreen trees grow all year-round. Though they produce flowers in the spring in AZ, blooming now, the long season required to produce the sweet, juicy fruit we love so much means that the fruit I see on the trees began last year and is still ripening at the same time the new flowers are blooming.
These oranges and grapefruit are always becoming on the same tree. The flower knows what it is becoming.
This sense of knowing who we are is the essence of becoming, it is the journey of self- discovery and the fulfillment of our special purpose. Agnes Sanford, (1897-1982) was an unconventional Christian mystic and a healer. In her biography, Sealed Orders, she chronicles her gradual realization that she was commissioned by God to be a healer. She preached and lived her commission. She became a world renowned healer.
The Lenten season compels us to find new meaning for our lives. Like the spring season it can be a time of spiritual flowering and bearing fruit. A time for being lead from an inward knowing and becoming. If we choose to be in the process of growing spiritually, this is the season for continually seeking and finding God’s presence in our daily affairs.
It is good to reflect on the origins and traditions of Lent. The Gospels do not mention Lent so we can presume that the origins of Lent did not begin with them. The early Church Fathers initiated a time of preparation for baptism, . (See Baptism as Illumination in the Early Church — St. Justin Martyr, Justin Martyr’s apology)
By the early third century rituals and practices of preparing for baptism on Easter Sunday morning became the accepted practice for becoming a Christian. The three stages of preparation for becoming a Christian were established by the third century. The first stage of coming to faith involved an examination of the circumstances under which the convert came to faith, the testimony of sponsors, and the convert’s promise to live as a believer. I was surprised by length of the second stage: a full three years of cathetical training. And the third stage also surprised me by its rigorous demands. More examinations (under auspices of the bishop), to determine whether the candidate had lived piously and done good works, took the form of a full week of daily exorcisms, services, prayers, fasting on the final Friday and Saturday, and an all-night vigil of prayer and Scripture reading leading to baptism at Easter dawn. However, by the latter part of the fourth century the church re-defined the preparation or training-time for converts to forty days before Easter. That was a relief. Over time, the Lent season, became a preparation and re-dedication to Christian life and associated with “giving-up” worldly things, denying self.
Today, Lent is practiced in a variety of ways in different ways Christian denominations. Growing up in a Hungarian neighborhood, I often heard my Catholic friends ask, “what did you give up for Lent?” For me, a Baptist and later a Swedenborgian Lenten “giving up” held little meaning. To be honest, I felt a little superior and even critical of my friends. “Giving up” something delightful for Lent, like going to parties seemed hypocritical since they could hardly wait for Easter to resume their pre-Lenten activities. In those days Lent made no sense to me. I was not into reflection but now, I question the negative emphasis of Lent. If my focus in Lent is on self-denial, then I should choose something worth giving up; like being critical and just as surely I should not make Easter the day to return to my old habit of being overly critical. I seek an affirmative Lent, resolving to do some useful and kind acts and doing them with gladness. In this way I am becoming more Christian, bearing both flower and fruit. Then, when Easter comes, I will discover a new love for being kind and patient growing in me. According to the Apostle John, Jesus encourages his followers to become branches on the vine “bearing fruit”, one that always bears fruit.
The beautiful orange I pluck from the tree is juicy, fragrant and sweet through and through. We are meant to become good fruits through and through, inside and outside. Swedenborg in his Heavenly Secrets, reveals a deeper meaning of “fruitful”, one that I cherish. I feel blessed to be nourished by these sweet fruits. Like the fruit I enjoy this spring, this Lenten season, I dedicate myself to becoming a blessing like the fruits I enjoy so much.