A Lenten Fog

Today brought a lovely fog (along with a month’s worth of rain). I like fog. It silhouettes the bare trees gorgeously. It lies caressingly on the skin. It envelopes one as one walks, offering an hospitably protective privacy and a stillness that is unaffected by motion. Fog absorbs sound as much as cold and snow make it crackle. Fog is a gift of spring that is usually out-heralded by warmth and flowers. It is an essential consequence of the acquaintance of warming air and a lingering coldness in the ground.

Fog suits the Lenten season well. Fog requires faith that familiar objects are there even when we’re unable to see them. Fog, and its airborne cousin the cloud, is a venerable teacher of prayer. The author of The Cloud of Unknowing insists that a foggy faith is a truer faith, that the cloud may be sought out to great advantage as it dampens and distorts sensory perception and calls faith out to direct action. St. John of the Cross similarly enjoins us to know less, to have less, to want less, to cast ourselves on the misty mercy of Christ, less aware, even of our spiritual identities, but with enhanced trust.

Clouds and fog appear in scripture to be necessary accompaniments to the presence of God. The top of Mt. Sinai was engulfed in a cloud while Moses and God were about the business of forging the Law. A cloud was the daytime sign of God’s leading for the Israelites in the 40 years of desert wandering. Solomon’s new temple was filled with a cloud at the dedication liturgy. God spoke out of a cloud at Jesus’ baptism and again at his Transfiguration. John the Revelator says that Christ will come “with the clouds.” There’s nothing like a fog, it seems to “reveal” God’s identity, God’s will, and God’s affection for his children. Maybe fog is God’s way of softening his presence to a level that we can survive.

Fog invites me to slow down as a Lenten discipline. I’m reticent about getting on a bicycle in the fog. I certainly don’t want to drive in it. But, a walk in the fog, or a mosey (to use Amy’s musician friend’s term) might just find us in a surprising new landscape.  Or perhaps an encounter with God’s foggy presence may reveal some surprising new landscape in us—once the fog lifts.

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3 thoughts on “A Lenten Fog

  1. A beautifully written and insightful meditation on one of the few metaphors for the place of uncertainty in faith that is inviting to most people . . . thanks.

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  2. Karen Thomas Smith

    I am a Christian Chaplain at a North American-style University in Morocco who studied theology at St. John’s (Benedictine) University in Collegeville, Minnesota. I was reflecting on the beauty of the fog I watched roll over the village of Ifrane, Morocco, this morning, when I decided to see if anyone had reflected on the connections between Lenten spirituality and fog. I was astonished by the poetic depth and aptness of this meditation, and sent it to my mailing list. Whoever you are, Ric, I am grateful that you took the time to reflect on faith and fog and share it with us all.

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  3. Ric,

    What a beautiful imagery of the fog and Lent. Wow – I simply never brought the image alive before. It will serve as my remaining Lenten mediation (I love imagery in my prayer). I think of the downside of fog – NOT being able to see ahead – and that reminds me of the unknown. Actually, fog means God is near when you remind me of the biblical use of fog and cloud. Still, Easter will lift the fog in many ways…mostly to be more trusting of God who is present. Thanks

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