The season of Lent began this week with Ash Wednesday. This is the 3rd Lent to take place during the pandemic.
There are many similarities between Advent and Lent, both are seasons of preparation that culminate with one of the two most important celebrations or feast days of the church year.
I love Advent. Everything about it speaks to me. The shades of blue, big and small stories from the bible, images of light and dark, the hopeful anticipation in the midst of struggle. Advent is an exercise in contrasts.
Lent on the other hand is not nearly as playful or vivid… sigh…
While Advent arrives with winter when it is new and exciting, Lent usually comes when we are ready to say goodbye to the snow. And before Lent takes us to Easter, we have to go through Holy Week. Holy Week which is intense, emotional and draining.
Lent is less like preparing for the Holidays and more of a spiritual spring cleaning or exercise regime.
Last year, as our second pandemic Lent arrived, many commented on how it felt like Lent had never ended. We had simply wandered in the wilderness for most of 2020 and the beginning of 2021.
Yet today in March of 2022 when the pandemic that has dominated our attention for the better part of 2 years, it is about 4th place in terms of headline news right now.
Someone on Twitter commented that if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were in a horse race, Famine and Death would have been strong for a long time. But Pestilence made a big comeback 2 years ago, only to have War surprise everyone in this homestretch.
With all that is happening in our world these days – war, protests, economic disaster, disease and more – it can be hard to feel like our small Lenten practices are of any impact. It is a lot easier to watch, listen to, or read the news and feel hopeless about the world.
And yet, I wonder if taking on a Lenten practice this year might be just what we need more than ever. It can look like giving something up like chocolate, coffee, tv or meat. It can be taking something on like daily prayer and scripture reading, giving alms, or watching mid-week Lenten services (Wednesdays at 7PM on the Facebook Page).
Having something small and out of our usual routines to focus on each day as a way to draw our attention back to God may be just what is needed these days. When the problems of the world are too much to bear, those small reminders that we do not walk in this wilderness alone can carry us through to the promise of Easter.
In the early church, Lent wasn’t just a season to wallow in the wilderness waiting for Good Friday. Lent was (and is) the season when catechumens (essentially adult confirmation students) would finalize their preparation for baptism at the Easter Vigil. And usually all those already baptized would join in the preparation as a reminder of their own baptism.
Lent and its seasonal practices are meant to provide little disruptions in our lives. Moments and practices that wake us up from the rest of life, and turn us back to God. Turns us back to the promises of God found in baptism of forgiveness, life and salvation.
Promises that we certainly need reminding of right now, week to week and day to day.
And so I invite you to consider what your Lent will look like this year and what it might include for you.