The season of Lent has begun. Whether or not you spent last Wednesday with a sooty cross on your forehead, you may be wondering how to participate in this season. Horace Westwood’s 1939 Lenten Manual could be just the ticket. While serving as a Unitarian minister, the Reverend Westwood wrote a Manual making it a straightforward affair to participate in Lent through the practice of a daily, guided meditation. It’s a wonderful resource–because, after all, who wants to reinvent the wheel for every religious holiday. Should you decide to create your own manual, however, please share!
Westwood’s Manual is based on his faith in God as Eternal and All-Conquering Love. The Manual is broken down by weekly themes and daily meditations except for Sundays since Westwood assumed Lentenites would be in Church (where else could you possibly want to be?).
Now, for the promised manual. The foreword explains how Westwood intended it to be used. Also included are Saturday’s meditation to situate and prepare you for today’s meditation, the first Monday of Lent.
The Great Avowal: “We avow our faith in God as Eternal and All-Conquering Love.” (The Worcester Statement)
This Lenten booklet is based on the plan of a brief daily lesson, followed by an exercise and a meditation. The purpose of the lesson, however, is not to instruct but to stimulate thought on the part of the reader. It makes little difference whether or not there is agreement with the writer. The important thing is that those who follow the lessons should do their own thinking and form their own conclusions. In other words, this is a work booklet.
It is not intended to encourage sentimental piety, than which there is no greater enemy to religion. The times  demand a certain ruggedness of temper and incisiveness of mind. The period through which the world is passing calls for spiritual hardihood, fortitude and strength. While our central theme is “Eternal and All-Conquering Love,” and while we may not overlook that Love has its tender side, the reader is reminded that Love can be most searching in its demands and stern in its requirements.
A few practical suggestions for the best use of the booklet:
(1) Set aside a definite period each day during Lent, at least ten minutes, better still, fifteen
(2) Try to relax and quiet the mind before reading the lesson.
(3) Read the lesson slowly and thoughtfully.
Sometimes its thought may seem obscure and sometimes you may profoundly disagree. Well, this is a sign that you are using your mind, which is the important thing.
(4) Use the exercises faithfully
(5) Keep a notebook and record your reactions.
(6) Use the meditation as a sincere expression of your own purpose.
(7) Remember that in using these lessons day by day you are sharing an experience with hundreds of others who are doing the same thing. Seek, then, to become aware of the fellowship you share. It will be to you a source of encouragement and power. Also, you will be a source of inspiration to others.
[The 1st week’s theme.]
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE AVOWAL
DAY 4 (1st Saturday): A Way of Behavior
The importance of the Great Avowal [“We avow our faith in God as Eternal and All-Conquering Love”] lies in that it is more than an argument. It means that you and I pledge ourselves to a particular way of life. It means that we “highly resolve” to behave as though Love were the Supreme Reality behind the centuries of history and the events of the passing show. It means, despite the terrible record of the past few years, despite dictatorships, concentration camps, persecutions and the exploitation of human life on behalf of the “will to power,” and despite the hatred of class struggle, war and revolution, we proclaim that Love will endure and will prevail.
Exercise: Why do we say “to behave” rather than “to live”? Comment on, “A reasonable argument without the committal of self to the conclusion is of no avail.”
Creation’s Lord, we give thee thanks
That this thy world is incomplete;
That battle calls our marshaled ranks
That work awaits our hands and feet;
That thou hast not yet finished man,
That we are in the making still, –
As friends who share the Maker’s plan,
As sons who know the Father’s will.
Since what we choose is what we are,
And what we love we yet shall be,
The goal may ever shine afar, –
The will to win it makes us free.
(William De Witt Hyde)
DAY 5 (1st Monday): The Importance of Demonstration
How few of us realize that there is a sense in which we make the truth! When Clara Barton undertook her great work during the Civil War she began to make the truth of the Red Cross movement. When Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do,” he added to the truth of the power of magnanimity and the redeeming strength of the forgiving heart. In later lessons we shall discover that the avowal of “God as Eternal and All-Conquering Love” is grounded in reason. But because we avow it, we make it the truth by which we conduct the affairs of life. We enter upon the most thrilling and daring of adventures. Cowardly spirits will shrink from the enterprise. What more important task could we undertake than to demonstrate the Supremacy of Love?
Exercise: We must beware of sentimentalism in our thought of love. Contemplate the sentence, “Love can be hard.” Review previous lessons.
Meditation: O Love revealing to us the heart of God and the depths of the soul of Man, give us the wisdom to perceive thee at work behind the events of the hour. We would adventure with thee into the dark places of life and reveal thy power in thought, word, and deed.