Opening the aperture on a camera results in sharp focus on the center of interest, with the background increasingly out of focus, as the aperture gets wider. This puts in focus what’s most important in the image. The background is still in the picture, but as a pleasing, blurry part of the image, which helps the part of the picture in focus to stand out more. This quality is referred to as depth of field.
Our eyes are continually adjusting, so that every part of what we look at is in focus from foreground to background. The camera does not have the ability of the human eye in this regard, so it cannot adjust aperture on the fly.
In life we sometimes focus on the big picture, when we try to have everything in focus (the equivalent to using a narrow aperture on a camera), as when we’re planning for the future or are making a significant or life-changing decision. Sometimes we focus more closely on the present moment, what’s going on here and now, without much regard for the big picture, which falls out of sharp focus, much like using a wide camera aperture. We know the big picture is always there, but for the moment we attend to what’s right in front of us.
Prayer and reflection fall into the category of close focus, aware of the big picture but attending to the here and now, much like attending to the needs of a loved one, where the present moment is what counts most, or losing oneself in the tending of a garden or becoming absorbed in a work of art or a beautiful sunset.
The season of Lent invites us to enter with close focus into the final events of the life of Jesus, as he goes to Jerusalem and from there to Calvary, where he makes the ultimate sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
“So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come. Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)