My soul thirsts for the living One.
Psalm 42:2

Did you know that the word Lent comes from the Old English word for spring? (It’s related to the word lengthen, as in lengthening of days). It’s helpful to keep this in mind so we remember that Lent is a time of ever-increasing light and warmth (in the Northern hemisphere). And while there is a long history within Christianity of seeing the 40 days before Easter as a period of fasting and self-denial, it’s just as helpful to see this season as a period for deep inner transformation: think of Lent as a “spring cleaning for the soul.”

Some of the greatest guides for this sacred season of Lent are the mystics: persons who have embraced lives of deep meditation, profound contemplation, and prayerful action that arises out of a felt sense of union with the Divine. Like Lent itself, mysticism is a word that can easily be misunderstood or misinterpreted. But the mystics and spiritual guides who will accompany us on this Lenten journey are not navel-gazers or spiritual by-passers: we’ll be drawing from the well of amazing visionaries who integrate deep spirituality with an equally profound commitment to justice, compassion, and beloved community. A mystical Lent is truly an earthy Lent.

Since Lent is a season of the Christian sacred year, we will explore this season primarily — but not exclusively — through the lens of Christian mysticism and wisdom. But mystics tend to be inclusive and embracing, so we’ll touch base with visionaries and contemplatives from around the world, weaving all their insights into a common tapestry of renewal and transformation.

Lent has been described as a season of fasting, of generosity, and of prayer. Likewise, mysticism is a spirituality grounded in purification, illumination, and divine union. As we reflect together on the parallels between the three stages of mysticism and the three dimensions of this sacred season, we will chart the course for creating our own mystical Lent.

Here’s what you can expect in this Lenten program:

• 19 emails sent on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, starting on Ash Wednesday. They will include words from the mystics, reflections by Carl McColman, and prompts for spiritual practice.

• Online Practice Circle to share your responses to the readings and Carl’s reflections and your experiences with the practices. Open 24/7, the Practice Circle is available to people around the world.

• One-hour Zoom call with Carl McColman on March 21, 4 – 5 pm PT. (Find the time in your time zone here.)

This course is designed to encourage a contemplative approach to the spiritual themes of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to the middle of Holy Week. Although grounded in the Christian mystical tradition, the themes and practices presented here are universal in nature and appropriate for sincere seekers of any tradition or no tradition.

Carl McColman is profiled in Spirituality & Practice’s Living Spiritual Teachers Project and has previously led four other e-courses here. Carl McColman is a layperson under formal spiritual guidance of Cistercian monks, affiliated with the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. He has written books on Celtic Spirituality and most recently published The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism. His work is characterized by an optimistic, expansive understanding of spirituality, rooted in Christianity while embracing the wisdom of the world’s contemplative traditions.

Join us to explore silence, service, and serenity during the sacred season of Lent. (6 CEHs for chaplains available.)