“Lent is our salvation from the depths of nothingness. It is our guide to the more of life.” –Joan Chittister
Lent is nearly upon us. Every year when I write about Lent, especially in Spanish, it seems to provoke controversy. Why would Evangelical churches celebrate something that is Catholic?
Well, the quick answer is that it is not just Catholic, although many of our countries in Latin America have thought of it as such. Lent is a season in the Christian calendar, and the Christian calendar is just that: an annual rhythm offered to every Christians o that we may more meaningfully journey with Christ. I have written previously about the Christian calendar as a whole, but for the purposes of the next two blogs, we will reflect on Lent specifically.
It is important to note that by the year 330, a Lenten season of forty days was commonly practiced in the early church. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter, or to properly clarify, it could be said that Holy Saturday is the final day of Lent because it is the final day of fasting and denial before the most important of celebrations. Easter Sunday comes with a burst of joy and celebration, a stark contrast with the themes of Lent. Jesus is risen! He has triumphed over the grave!
For many Evangelicals, Lent (and Ash Wednesday particularly) has proven all too confusing. Joan Chittister’s explanation in her wonderful book, The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life, can help us:
“Ash Wednesday, an echo of the Hebrew Testament’s ancient call to sackcloth and ashes, is a continuing cry across the centuries that life is transient, that change is urgent. We don’t have enough time to waste time on nothingness. We need to repent our dillydallying on the road to God. We need to regret the time we’ve spent playing with dangerous distractions and empty diversions along the way. We need to repent of our senseless excesses and our excursions into sin, our breaches of justice, our failures of honesty, our estrangement from God, our savorings of excess, our absorbing self-gratifications, one infantile addiction, one creature craving another. We need to get back in touch with our souls.”
This is the essence of Lent. In a world that revolves around consumption and pleasure, we abstain and refrain. We deny ourselves and take up our cross daily as we follow Christ to Golgotha. If we do not engage in this act or in this season, we run the risk of forgetting his sacrifice completely.
Are you ready for Lent? Would you pray that God would disciple you in this season of denial and discipline? It may make a world of difference for your soul.