Preparing for Lent - by Heather Dennis
Lent is the season of the Christian Calendar that precedes Easter. It is one of the oldest seasons established by the early Christian church. It begins on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 10 this year) and lasts 40 days. Many connect this to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert where he prayed and prepared for his ministry and where Satan tempted him.
While Lent is not a season of celebration, like Easter, it is a season of preparation for Easter. The feasting and celebration of the Easter season rests upon the longing and vulnerability that are cultivated during Lent. It is a season that invites us to slow down, take stock of ourselves, and to intentionally open our hearts, minds and souls to God’s presence. Many church traditions have various practices for observing Lent, but the most common are fasting and reflection.
Some fast from food, like coffee or desserts and some fast from technology or entertainment, like Facebook, TV, or video-games. Some fast from behaviours or routines that distract them with busyness or preoccupy them with their own needs. Others incorporate practices that involve intentional reflection on their need for Christ and his redemption, like placing images or symbols in their home.
This time of fasting and/or reflection is deeply meaningful in light of the coming of Easter. It is a time in which we willingly deprive ourselves of those things that distract us or protect us from our own vulnerability, weakness and brokenness. Lent exposes us to our compulsions, to our lack of control, and to our depravity. And in this time of deprivation, Lent point us to Easter and encourages us to turn to Christ for love and protection rather than to the comforts or demands of our material life.
We invite you consider observing Lent this year in preparation for Easter. We invite you to join with countless Christians around the world in choosing to stop or slow down for season, to reflect on what is going inside of you and to experience your need for Easter.
This can be done individually or with your family. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
• Devotional books/websites that focus upon Lent. Some suggestions are:
- God For US edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press, 2014)
- Contemplating the Cross by Tricia Rhodes
- “The Lent Project” website put out by Biola University http://ccca.biola.edu/lent/
• Set up symbols of Lent in your home for your family: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/symbols.html
• Here are some suggestions for helping children with Lent: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/children.html
Quotes about Lent:
“Lent enables us to face ourselves, to see the weak places, to touch the wounds in our own soul, and to determine to try once more to live beyond our lowest aspirations.”— Joan Chittister
“Lent cleanses the palate so that we can taste life more fully. It clears the lens so that we can see what we routinely miss within our circumstances.” — Greg Pennoyer
“Lent. It is a season to slowly prepare our souls. It is a time to open ourselves to the presence of God in our lives. . .It is a time to sit among the ashes, confident that will abound in due time. It is a time to be washed by our tears into the water of new life, to come to real transformation and newness ready to celebrate the feast that is given us at Easter.” — Ronald Rolheiser