By Sister Celia Ashton, OCD
Greetings! My name is Sister Celia and I’m a Carmelite nun. As a recreational cyclist and an avid pray-er, biking evokes for me many metaphors for the spiritual life.
The first is the liturgical “cycle” – the annual celebration of the events of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. As Catholic Christians, our life is grounded in and shaped by this sacred cycle: our seasons and celebrations, our fasts and feasts are lived according to liturgical time. The mechanics of riding a bike are basically the same each time we go for a ride. Factors that change from ride to ride are the terrain, how energetic we feel, and the weather. Similarly, the changing liturgical seasons provide the terrain for our life of prayer. With each revolution of this cycle we experience anew the depth of God’s love for us.
Our life of prayer is the intentional journey we take with God – sometimes on a bike, in the car, in the quiet of our rooms, in the messiness of our lives, on a scenic walk, or in a church pew. And our energy levels – as well as what’s happening in our lives – all affect how we enter into our time of prayer.
The liturgical season we are about to enter is Lent, and the terrain associated with Lent is the wilderness. Lent is a time of intensive training in stark and arid conditions. Our tires kick dust into our eyes, the path is not always smooth, and the dryness we feel in our mouth fuels our deep desire to drink from the font of living water: Christ.
Like Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, we bear the weight of pain, grief, and exhaustion. We can fall or be thrown from our bikes: Road Rash. In these moments of depletion, we become aware of our absolute dependence on God as we allow tiny pieces of gravel and dirt to be tenderly cleansed from our wounds.
How we prepare for Lent might be similar to preparing for our next big ride: We take only what we need. If we travel to a place that is welcoming, we stay. If any place is unwelcoming, we shake the dust from our clothes and move on in peace.
Be sure to notice the Sacred along the way, journey with a friend, stay alert, and spend time pedaling in solitude. Take enough water to get started and trust that you will encounter deeper wells along the way. Remember to drink deeply of God, often, and before you begin to bonk. Don’t let the baggage get in the way of the journey. Allow the Spirit to breathe in you. Rest Use the right gear at the right time. Find your cadence and enjoy the ride!