February sees us entering the liturgical season of Lent. You may have started the month celebrating with parades, pirates and the Superbowl, but before the week is over the church will try to focus your thoughts on spiritual discovery and discipline. Lent is the period of about 6 weeks that comes before Easter, and it is a time when Christians are encouraged to rediscover the disciplines, the practices, of the Christian life.
Lent is a season of preparation, reflection and strengthening one’s self in the Christian life. Taking on Christian practices often entails letting go of some other behaviors in order to make space, or changes in one’s life to promote faithfulness. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates the gospel’s report of Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. It also imitates the 40 years the Hebrews wandered in the desert before they were ready to enter the Promised Land. All churches that have a continuous history extending before AD 1500 observe Lent. The practice of observing this season has roots in the earliest years of the church.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. This year Lent began on Wednesday 10th February and ends on Saturday March 26th, which is the day before Easter. The date of the great celebration of Christ’s resurrection (Easter) travels across the calendar. Here is a bit of trivia; Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. This is a witness to the fact that originally (though it has drifted a bit) the date for Easter was tied to the Jewish celebration of the Passover.
I like to think of Lent as a journey. A time of moving from the place I’m at to the next place God wants me. I think of Lent as a time to intentionally strengthen practices of the Christian faith such as prayer, bible study, generosity, Sabbath keeping, worship and benevolent acts. Many people think of Lent as a time of fasting and giving up something, like chocolate, or red meat on Fridays. Lent, however, is not about being miserable; it’s about entering into a time of preparation, self-discovery, and positive change. Think of it as a sort of Christian Spring training. These forty days of Lent can also be for you and your family an intentional time of faith renewal and practice.
So what are you leaving behind this Lent? What are you embracing for Lent? Batter Up!