The Book of Common Prayer issues the following invitation:
“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” (p. 265).
Does this mean that Lent is simply to be endured, a time to put aside the excesses of my life in order to accomplish a new goal – an exercise plan, weight loss, better eating habits, a more healthy life-style?
As good as these goals are, they really don’t have anything to do with Lent. Lent, rather, is the Church’s annual retreat into the desert with Jesus where we encounter all the illusions we live by so as to see – perhaps for the first time – that true life is in God alone.
Historically, Lent was always about baptism: going down with Christ into his death and being raised up with him to new life. It was time when the Church prepared those who were to be baptized at the Easter Vigil: the new Christians were born in the waters of baptism and welcomed by a church community who had relived their own 40-day journey from death to new life in Christ.
Thus, the entire Church experienced in ever new ways the truth that the deepest meanings of life are to be seen in Jesus own life, death and resurrection: how he willingly died to self so that others might live.
The Lenten season begins on February 10th with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. On this day we will be signed with the cross of Christ, the same sign we were marked with in baptism , and the sign by which we promise to live the whole of our lives – freely giving life away in service to others so that they and the world might find new life in Christ.
May you have a wonderful Lent.
At Epiphany, we will have two Ash Wednesday celebrations: 12:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.