THE BEAUTY OF LENT
We are entering a season about which many of us are ambivalent. Lent often just happens to us.
I once heard someone say that change in our lives occurs in at least three ways: by default, through drift, or by decision.
Lent often happens by default—the church calendar simply clicks forward, one day or one week at a time. In its turn comes Lent, having arrived as a matter of course.
Sometimes we find ourselves drifting into Lent. When not aware of the liturgical season, and not quite regular in our worship attendance, we arrive one Sunday to find the interior of the church strangely transformed.
The best way to enter Lent is by decision. Though Lent may seem to happen to us, we can also be intentional and choose to engage this new season. And, on its terms!
Our choice here may parallel our choice to tithe. At first, we attend to what we are giving up or leaving behind. In other words, we focus on what we seem to lose. But we can also see giving ourselves and our financial resources as a gain. We gain through giving ourselves to God, and to others.
When I was younger, I often took a rigorous approach to this traditionally penitential season of Lent. Some years I fasted every weekday until evening, in a practice we associate with Ramadan. I learned from this practice, as I did from my subsequent celebration of Eastertide. Alternating feasts and fasts shape the liturgical year.
But I have discovered another way to approach Lent. I am now more likely to arrange my Lenten pattern so it anticipates how I want to live as an Easter-person. I used to experience a pendulum swing from a season of Lenten fasting to one of Eastertide feasting, followed by the more ambiguous ‘ordinary’ time of summer. Now, I try to live toward extraordinary time, all the time.
How I always want to live becomes the measure of how I try to live during Lent. I find great beauty in the simplicity and restraint of this holy season, a beauty which I always want to engage. Lent provides an opportunity to focus on this beauty, and to pare away all that impedes my apprehension of it.
Thanks to the website of The Gateway Church, at Des Moines, IA, for making available the neutral Lenten background image.