Lent. We’re getting well into the Lenten season already, but I’m still getting my head around all of it. Not coming from a church background that actually observes the church calendar or anything acknowledged to be a liturgy, some of this stuff is still settling into my psyche and finding a place to roost.
Last Sunday evening before or after (I forget which, probably after) we attended St. Benedicts Table, we talked with our kids about the season of Lent. It was noted that the colour of the priest’s stole had changed, and a series of candles at the front of the church would be extinguished, one each week, until they were all dark.
We talked about Lent as a kind of antithesis to Advent. Whereas Advent is a season leading up to the coming of light into the world, Lent is a season leading up to the going of light out of the world. In similar ways but with different moods, we prepare our hearts for the observance of the holiday up to which each season leads.
What I recall of Lent over the past few years is a kind of observance of people who didn’t understand the season… those who wanted to participate in the traditional church calendar in some way, but didn’t really understand the whole thing. “You’re supposed to give something up for Lent, aren’t you?” It was little more than a fast for something-or-other… and without catching the whole picture, the fast would run right through the feast days during Lent as well. It almost seemed trendy — in an on-the-margins kind of way. For this reason, I don’t recall ever giving anything up for Lent. Fasting I understand quite well… but I would say that in some ways, this is the first Lenten season I’m really starting to come to an understanding of the whole thing. I mean, I’ve always “gotten” it at some level, increasing particularly over the past couple of years. But you know that feeling you have when you know there’s something more to the story that you just aren’t quite catching, just out of reach somewhere? The feeling that something is missing, or not quite right — despite how close you are.
I haven’t given anything up for Lent this year either. Perhaps next year. This year I’m still exploring, grasping some of the threads that have eluded me in the past. Not all, but some.
Lenten meditations are good… thinking through some of the themes. Jamie Howison offers a helpful introduction to the season. J.R. Woodward is compiling a list of Stations of the Cross that can be “stepped through” online… he’s up to a dozen at the moment. Will Samson, who is actually doing a blog-fast during Lent, future-posted some material to appear in his absence, including a Lenten Reflection: The Emergent Nature of Christ, just to illustrate that one can post a high quality of blog content in abstentia. He moves from complex systems to why he prefers “emergent” to “emerging” (and makes a good point) to conclude,
In this time of Lent, when we specifically focus on the work of Christ, I am reflecting on the emergent nature of Christ. I am asking what wild and unexpected things might God do in my life, the life of my family and the life of my community.
Still in the vein of linking unexpected terms to Lenten themes, Tyler Ashworth (whose blog I was not acquainted with before this post) offers Lent Readings: Reconciliation and Ubuntu. For those not familiar with the term, ubuntu is great word, and it’s explained in the brief series of readings Tyler has compiled for contemplation.