Make a Lenten Desert

The writer of enclosed stories, Marca Wolterbeek, has pitily passed away on 15th of january 2021.


As preparation for Easter, I have for many years, during Lent, laid out a “Lenten Desert”.

In the spot where, around Christmastime, I set up my Christmas manger, I place a nice wooden box and fill it with sand: a small desert as a reminder of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. A couple of round pebbles refer to the temptation to make bread out of stones. In the background I place a large “40” and in the “0” I paint a vision of the Tree in the Garden of Eden, seeing that the first reading of the first Sunday of Lent concerns the temptation of Adam and Eve in Paradise.

On the second Sunday I a place an image of a mountain in the background because the Gospel reading is about the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. I also set out a road in the desert, for the first reading is about Abraham who must start his journey. I mark out the road with white pebbles because after the Transfiguration Jesus continues on his way with his disciples, fortified by his heavenly experience

The third, fourth and fifth Sundays focus our attention on the themes that are central in the Easter Vigil: water, light and life.

On the third Sunday we hear how the Jewish people trek through the desert led by Moses, who brings forth water from the rock so that they might continue their journey with fresh courage.
Life-giving water is also the theme in the Gospel reading: the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well.
In my “Lenten Desert” I create a well by placing a small basin of water in the sand.

On the fourth Sunday we hear why David and not one of his older brothers is anointed King:
God does not see in the same way people see.
In the Gospel light and seeing also play a role in the healing of the man who was born blind.
I hang a small spotlight above my “Lenten Desert” due to which everything is seen in a different light.

On the fifth Sunday we hear how the Prophet Ezekiel, during the Exile, gives the people new courage:
God will open up their graves and lead them back to their own country. In the Gospel we hear how Jesus calls his friend Lazarus out from the grave.
I place little basins containing watercress seeds on a bed of damp cotton-wool in my “Lenten Desert”: you can almost see the seeds sprouting, the way new life emerges.

On Palm Sunday we celebrate the Triumphal Entry of the Messiah:
Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, gently riding astride a donkey.
In the front of my “Lenten Desert” I make a triumphal arch using palm fronds.

On Maundy Thursday I harvest my water-cress and eat it with a matse (unleavened bread): a reminder of the bitter herbs and the Last Supper.

On Good Friday my “Lenten Desert” appears empty.

At Easter I change my “Lenten Desert” into a blooming Easter garden with many tiny trumpet-daffodils because these are also called Easter lilies.
It is a reminder of Mary Magdalen who met her Lord in the garden!

All this makes my Lent a special time: my attention is drawn to the main themes of our faith and I enjoy spending my time in this creative manner.

You can read more about this on internet by looking for KIJKWOESTIJN on a search-engine.

This article appeared earlier in SAMENSPRAAK,
year 16, no. 4: Jan/Feb 2005.

I use the readings from year A because they are the closest to:
– catechism concerning baptism
– the symbols of the Easter Vigi

Marca Wolterbeek