What is Lent all about, anyway?

Lent in EastonWe all have axes to grind–here is mine. I am convinced that Lent has far more to do with preparing to celebrate THE RESURRECTION (than only Good Friday). It reminds us more of the practice of the early church to prepare Catechumens for complete incorporation into the Body of Christ (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist) than with the “reconciliation of notorious sinners”.

Here is the invitation to Lent which we are given in the Book of Common Prayer (pp. 264-265)

“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.”

Thus, I am often troubled (and yes annoyed) by the almost exclusive focus on penance! Even so, our Book of Common Prayer (p. 265) gives some excellent advice about how to get something out of Lent:

“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.”

(I broke up the passage to emphasize the five suggested steps.)

By the way–a much better word, I think, is “conversion”–“turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Lent is a season of Revival, a time of renewal, a time of discovery, and a time for growth. Seen in that light, these tools are amazingly helpful. The ultimate questions for me each year are these; How am I alienated or isolated from God, others, and creation? In what ways am I wounded, hurt and broken? What steps can I take to be more deeply and fully connected, integrated, healed and loved?

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