FROM YOUR PRIEST
This month, we once again begin the forty days of Lent which starts on Ash Wednesday (March 5). The invitation is “Are we ready to enter into Lent?” “Lent” is the Old English word for spring. It comes from the same root as “length.” It’s the season when the days, once shortened and cold, begin to lengthen once more and the world is made more habitable. On the surface, it seems no one would need to make an effort to enter this season. We need no invitation for this transition. The groundhog has seen his shadow, and to the despair of many, he has predicted that there will be six more weeks of winter. He went back into his hole. And then he, with the rest of us, will tentatively, but eagerly walk out into the increasingly warm and budding days of springtime.
So, “why enter into Lent when spring is going to come anyway?” Or to put it more bluntly, “Why discipline and restrict ourselves further when the weather is finally going to give us a break?” If Mother Nature has decided to relent, why should we not just go along and enjoy the new growth of the leaves, buds and brightly colored blossoms of spring. However, just as the winter is ending, and even the lowly groundhog is finally able to leave his hole and step into the sunshine, we double back and enter a hole of our own making to study, fast, and pray,-- or so it seems. And once again we are tempted to ask, “Is it really necessary for us to enter into Lent?”
The answer comes back, just as sure as it has through the centuries, “Yes. Only if you are interested in finding out something about Easter.” The ancients had the idea that the path to resurrection led through a careful and sober examination of life. So, they sought to prolong in their own inner discipline the austerity that winter had taught them. They sought to understand the business of self-discipline and self-denial. They prayed and fasted and repented.
In our Ash Wednesday liturgy, we are also called to “the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word (BCP, 265).” The penitential nature of the season sets the tone for the preparation of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that awaits us at the end of the Forty Days of Lent. During Lent, the Church tries to find ways to enrich our experience of worship by offering a more subdued and contemplative atmosphere. There are no altar flowers during Lent. We also refrain from saying “Alleluia.” The liturgical color for Lent is purple, the color of penitence and royalty, as we think of the King of kings moving toward his fateful last journey. On the Sundays of Lent, we will begin each worship service with a silent procession and either the Great Litany (on Lent I) or the Penitential Office, calling us the solemnity of this special season. Each Sunday worship service, even during Lent, is still a “Little Easter” in observance of the Resurrection, so we will continue to sing a hymn for the procession out. During Holy Week, there are, of course a good many special liturgical offerings, each with its own unique meaning and tradition.
As we all enter the season of Lent, may we all find ways to enrich and deepen our faith journey because the more we can focus on what Lent and Holy Week have to offer, the more we can experience the joyous proclamation of the Resurrection at Easter. I wish you all a Holy Lent.
In Christ's love,