Preparing for Lent
Today is Ash Wednesday. The start of the liturgical season of Lent, Ash Wednesday is named for the practice of the imposition of ashes (when the priest marks your head with blessed ashes in the shape of a cross). The ashes serve as a sign of penitence and a reminder of our morality. As we say at the Ash Wednesday service, "we remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return." The Ash Wednesday liturgy is a lovey service, and I encourage you to attend if you are able. St. Brendan’s is hosting two Ash Wednesday liturgies today, one at noon and one at 7 pm.
The season of Lent, which is the season before Easter, is a time for “penitence and fasting” (BCP, pp. 265). As a reflection of Christ’s forty-day fast in the wilderness, there are forty days in Lent (not including Sundays), from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. Historically, Lent was a time of preparation for those who wished to be baptized at Easter. Today, it is a time for all Christians to renew their repentance and commitment to Christ. During the Ash Wednesday service, we are invited "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" (BCP, p. 265).
As Advent is a time for us to prepare for the coming of the infant Jesus at Christmas, so Lent is a time for us to prepare our hearts and mind for the resurrection of Christ at Easter. In recent years the tradition has become to give something up for Lent, such as fasting from chocolate, coffee, or Facebook. Many people use Lent as a time to break bad habits, a bit like a New Year’s resolution 2.0. Other people also try to take something on during Lent—to build a good habit—like making a commitment to read part of the Bible every day or giving more generously to those in need. There are no requirements or strict rules for how to observe Lent; it is a personal choice and a personal commitment.
There are numerous resources available to aid people with meditation, prayer, and spiritual reflection during Lent. Here are a few resources you may be interested in:
The Good Book Club is “an invitation to all Episcopalians to join in reading the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts during Lent-Easter 2018.” Listen to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s message about the Good Book Club here: http://www.goodbookclub.org/
Building Faith offers these Lenten devotions and resources:
For children and families: https://www.buildfaith.org/lenten-resources-for-children-and-families/
Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices presents these (mostly online) Lenten resources: http://www.ecfvp.org/tools/101/lenten-resources
Episcopal Relief and Development always produces a free Lenten devotional, which you can access here: http://episcopalmarketplace.org/Products/Episcopal-Relief-Development/2018-Lenten-Devotional_EN_2
For something a bit different, check out Lent Madness, a fun way to learn about various Saints, March-Madness style: http://www.lentmadness.org/
There is a lot going on at St. Brendan’s this Lent as well. Fr. Regis and our worship committee have challenged us to “Commit to Lent” this year and be at least 51% involved in the events and services going on at St. Brendan’s. On Wednesdays, St. Brendan’s will be hosting weekly “Meager Meals” of soup and salad at 5:30 pm. At 6 pm, Fr. Regis will lead parishioners through a guided meditation and prayer curriculum, “Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John” (http://meetingjesusinjohn.org), concluding by sharing the liturgy and Eucharist during our normal Wednesday evening worship service. On Sundays after the 10 am service, we will have several different guests presenting lessons and reflections on “Being an Episcopalian Today.” Here is a calendar of all the things going on!
Lent is a wonderful time for self-reflection, prayer, and meditation. For some people, this comes easily; for others, it is more of a challenge. But there are as many ways to pray as there are people in this world, and God hears them all. On the blog this Lent, I’ll be sharing some different ways to pray, reflect, and meditate, through words, song, movement, and art. Perhaps you will discover a way to pray that speaks to you. Today, I’ll leave you with this poem accredited to St. Seraphim of Sarov, an 18th-century Russian saint:
When you pray, be like the mountain
in stillness, in silence;
thoughts rooted in eternity.
Do nothing; just sit, just be;
and you will harvest the fruit of your prayer.
When you pray, be like the flower
reaching up to the sun;
straight stemmed like a column.
Be open, ready to accept all things without fear
and you will not lack light on your way.
When you pray, be like the ocean
with stillness in its depths
the waves ebbing and flowing.
Have calm in your heart,
and evil thoughts will flee of their own accord.
When you pray, remember the breath
that made all living beings:
from God it comes; to God it returns.
Blend the word and prayer with the flow of life
and nothing will come between you and the Giver of Life.
When you pray, be like the bird,
endlessly singing before the Creator,
its song rising like incense.
Pray like the turtle dove, the loon,
and you will never lose heart.
Grace and peace,
A member of St. Brendan's since 2014, I enjoy being a part of this welcoming and giving community of faith. However, I am not a theologian, biblical scholar, or official spokesperson for The Episcopal Church. If you read anything on this blog that is inaccurate or contrary to the teachings of The Episcopal Church, please consider it my error and let me know! If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future blog posts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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