Lent is a season in the church calendar that has always been meaningful to me. Even though I grew up non-denominational, my mom encouraged us to observe Lent in whatever way we felt was appropriate, which usually ended up being a mix of giving up and taking on certain things.
This year, Guion and I are taking a more minimal approach to Lent. We’re giving up alcohol, and for this first week, we’re fasting from sun up to sun down.
Throughout Lent, I’m also committing to reading the Bible every morning (something I have previously been lax about, despite my 2014 resolution) and to writing my prayers.
The Puritan in me doesn’t see these goals as burdensome or guilt-inducing; rather, I look forward to this season every year. Last night, during the Ash Wednesday service, Guion and I were particularly moved by the invitation to Lent, as found in the Book of Common Prayer:
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great
devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and
it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a
season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided
a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy
Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to
the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation
was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set
forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all
Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, 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. And, to make a right beginning
of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now
kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
Particularly, to me: the historical tradition of Lent in the early church stands out, and that line: “Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior…”
A message that it’s been easy for me to forget recently, and so I am thankful for the strong reminder.
Do you observe Lent? Do you have any aspirations for yourself over the next 40 days?