Saturday, 7 March 2009
What is Lent?
Lent has traditionally been seen as a time of personal meditation, a cleansing of the soul and also a time of preparation for those receiving baptism on Easter Sunday. It begins with a time of penitence, of saying sorry, on Ash Wednesday.
In the Roman Catholic Church fasting is still practised on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday. In the Eastern Orthodox Church not eating eggs, meat and fish is still common throughout Lent, which is why painted eggs are given out on Easter Sunday.
The colour representing Lent is purple and unbleached fabric and in some churches there are no flowers during Lent and all the crosses are all covered.
There comes a point in our lives where we have to leave behind what is comfortable and yet that which has become slavery for us, it maybe a job, a lifesyle, a way of viewing life or church or our faith. Whatever it maybe, we choose to move on or stagnate.
For the Israelites in the Exodus this meant moving from a situation of slavery but where they had food and shelter into a situation of great risk, not knowing where they were going, how they were going to be fed, where they were going...into a desert!
God is there through the trauma, through the storm, yet how do we access that spiritual resource? Circumstances can through the unemployment, through the tough time and cause us to sink into despair, to wish we were back in the old days.
There are spiritual disciplines that can help us. Silence, prayer, reading the scriptures, fasting... and if we are to move on in our lives these moments of risk-taking attendant with danger are inevitable and the only way forward.
The Christian journey requires that we take risks otherwise we stop growing as people of faith. we may move away from being respectable and risks are taken with no quarantee of success otherwise they would not require faith, they woulnt be risks. It is easy to trust God when things are going well but when the going gets tough then many of us look down and start to sink.
Muslim celebrated Ramadan with a month of disciplined fasting from dawn to dusk. What about us? How are we going to give this Lent to God, to allow the Spirit of Christ to work something new in us, to learn more about our faith, to seek God in prayer about our life? The number 40 represents a change; we have 40 days to reflect and maybe to enact change, with God's help.
There are books that can help us on that journey. There are organised times of prayer and reflection. The choice is ours.
We may choose to go into a desert or we may be driven there like the Israelites. We may already be in that desert, or on the edge of it. It may help us to be with others or to be alone. Whatever you do this Lent, do it consciously and wisely.