The Service for Ash Wednesday in The Book of Common Prayer gives the purpose for Lent:
"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... 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."
We are then invited, not forced out of some sense of duty or legalism, to spend this 40 day period in penitence and prayer:
"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..."
Though I grew up in the faith, Lent was a new practice when I entered the Anglican church. I was drawn to it for several reasons:
1. I have found that I need to have a period of time to prepare for Easter.
Since Easter is a movable holiday, it can often come upon us as a surprise. Even though as a child I would have started Easter morning with an egg hunt and perhaps a new dress, it was often hard for me to feel much excitement or spend much time understanding the importance of the resurrection on that given day. Going through Lent as an adult I experienced in a new way, a true sorrow at Christ's death on Good Friday and a real joy at His Resurrection on Easter morning. It was with great longing, I wanted to say the "Alleluia" again during the Sunday liturgy, wanted to see the church adorned with its fitting beauty and, in turn, anticipated Easter.
2. I need the help of the Church to practice the disciplines and I need the help of a community to create the space for quiet, reflection, and self-examination.
It seems the human experience that we cannot handle a continual mountaintop experience; we need the denouement of the play to begin quickly after the the climax. Lent moves us into a season for greater devotion; yet, my hope is always that the practices started in Lent will lead to a greater sanctification overall, not just a 40 day renewal. (Though renewal is needed too!) My hope is that the time spent in prayer will bear much fruit even when the season ends.
So over the next few days I'll share some of our families growing practices for Lent and the areas of special focus this year! We'd love to hear from you too!
Why do you observe Lent? What will this time mean for you? Please feel free to comment or add links back to your blogs if you have one. Lent done alone can be difficult. Lent in community can be powerful!