Lent is an old English word for springtime when the days are “lengthening”. During spring we see nature being “reborn” coming out of the “tomb” of winter, shrouded in snow. Nature comes alive again blooming and flowering. During spring we have a sort of natural symbolism of the Resurrection.
Lent began as a period of reflection for those preparing to be baptized. Soon those who were already baptized saw the wisdom of reflecting yearly on the quality of their discipleship and renewing their commitment to Christ.
Lent is a yearly renewal of our ideals as followers of Jesus. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and strive to be people of greater Faith, Hope, and Love.
We have the traditional practices of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving to help us grow spiritually.
Prayer: I have met few people who tell me that they pray too much. We might often think about God but often put off speaking with God. We begin Lent with the 40 Hours devotion. The weekly Stations of the Cross are a wonderful devotion for this season.
Fasting is the practice of self-denial, gaining greater control over ourselves. If I can say NO to chocolate going in my lips, maybe I can more easily say NO to hurtful words passing through my lips.
Almsgiving helps us move beyond good intentions to good actions helping those who are hurting.
On Ash Wednesday we are reminded of the reality of our mortality: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The wise person always lives with one eye on eternity.
The First Sunday of Lent is always the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert.
The Second Sunday of Lent is always the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration.
The Sixth Sunday of Lent is always Palm Sunday when we listen to the story of Jesus’ passion and death.
Right before Palm Sunday, the Holy Oils the parish will use the next year for baptism, confirmation, and the sick are consecrated by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass in the Cathedral in Des Moines.
The Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil) is almost like one continuous service spread out of 3 days remembering the Last Supper, The Crucifixion, and The Resurrection.
After the 40 days of preparation during the season of Lent, we then celebrate The Great 50 Days of the Easter season.
What is the goal of this season? That by Easter we are a little more available for God to use, a little less consumed by ourselves, a little more consumed by the Kingdom of God. If by April 5th this year (the date for Easter) you can say that you are following Christ more closely, more joyfully, more generously, than your season of Lent was a great success.
Author: Father Joel McNeil