This year the season of Lent began on Ash Wednesday, February 22nd. It continues for forty days until the celebration of Easter, excluding the Sundays in Lent, which is why these Sundays are described as “Sundays in Lent” as opposed to “Sundays of Lent.” (Full disclosure: I’ve known that the Sundays in Lent are not part of the 40-day total, but I only very recently connected that fact with the differentiation in prepositions.)
Lent grew out of the desire of the early church to formulate a ritual for remembering for remembering and celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection. Scholars speculate that the traditional Lenten emphasis on prayer and fasting may have been based on the model set by Paul in the biblical book of Acts: “And after [Paul and Barnabas] had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted [the new Christians] to the Lord in whom they had come to believe” (Acts 14:23).
As this passage suggests, the observance of Lent was more focused originally on the whole community of Christ than on personal and private piety, which has often drawn the spotlight in modern times. Many of us of a certain age grew up associating Lent with “giving up” something: meat, chocolate or a bad habit, for example. In recent years, however, the concept of Lent as a time for “taking on” spirituality instead of “giving up” temptations has gained in popularity. Striving intentionally to enter into a season of personal introspection—combined with communal reflection and outreach—is certainly consistent with drawing closer to Christ during these weeks leading up to Easter.
I invite us all, in the words of our Presbyterian liturgy, “to observe a holy Lent by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting, by works of love, and by reading and meditating on the Word of God.”
See you in worship on Sunday!
Grace and Peace,