Deriving its name from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencton” - meaning lengthening - the season of Lent occurs at a time of year when the days are lengthening. It is a most appropriate name for that reason but even more so because it is the time of year in which the Light that has come into the darkness is made most manifest in the Passion of Jesus Christ and it is the time of year during which people turn toward and make preparation to receive that Light anew on Easter Sunday. Because it is the season of reparation and preparation, it became the time in the Church year in which notorious sinners underwent public penance and were readmitted to communion before the Easter Feast and the time of year in which those seeking for the first time admission into the Church would undergo their final preparation for baptism at the Great Vigil of Easter. While the Church has moved away from ex-communicating and then readmitting “notorious” sinners (who has clean hands anyway?) the feel and themes of Lent remain penitential and it is now the whole body of the faithful who share in corporate confession and reparation. With practices brought forward from the Old Testament, where repentance is given symbolic expression in the donning of sack cloth and ashes, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with the declaration that God hates nothing that God has made and forgives the sins of all who are penitent, and the imposition of ashes for those desiring an outward expression of their inward penitence. While sack cloth is not in keeping with current fashion, churches do something parallel in the veiling of crosses and statuary and the use of unbleached linens. In our readings for the season, we listen for, hear, and reflect on messages of conversion, baptism, and the promise of new life.
This Ash Wednesday we will again take blessed ashes out of the church into the world for those whose work and whose school schedules keep them from attending either the noon or 7:00 pm services that day. Please join us at 7:00 am in the courtyard if you are in that former category and invite your friends to Ash Wednesday at Good Shepherd. During the forty days of Lent we will gathering on Wednesday evenings at 6:00 pm for a simple supper and a teaching on the “Four Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell” - very appropriate for the season of Lent when we consider again matters of sin, death, judgment, and the gift of God in Christ that gives eternal life. Holy Week is the final week of Lent. Thanks to the great work of so many last year, I am anticipating this year another deeply spiritual Holy Week that takes us from Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through his death and burial on Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter where we welcome back the Light of Christ. Keep an eye on the announcements and newsletter for information on these and other opportunities to experience the meaning of Lent. And because it may be the most appropriate time for them to do so, I encourage you to invite someone you know who has slipped in their faith journey to reconnect with God this Lent. Invite them to come and see, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
“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.” - Book of Common Prayer, p. 265.
Grace and peace,