So, we have just had Ash Wednesday (a week ago now! I haven’t posted all week because I’ve been flat out working on our PODCAST which is coming soon!), which begins the season of Lent.
Side note – I always wondered what ‘Lent’ meant, so I looked it up, and I was very disappointed, it simply is a shortening of an Old English word for ‘Spring’ which is the season Lent occurs in in the Northern Hemisphere, here in the south we are leaving Summer behind and entering the season of Autumn/Fall.
For those of you who are not sure what exactly the season of Lent is, it is a part of the church calendar, an important season which leads up to Easter. It is 40 das – not including Sundays – from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. It is 40 days in length because it identifies us with the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and then being tempted by the devil. It is a season to repent, and to lament our sinfulness, to prepare our hearts for Good Friday and to help us then celebrate in more depth and with a greater appreciation, the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.
Lent is not celebrated in every part of the church, many protestant denominations do not acknowledge it, probably for fear that it is too ‘Romish’ – I grew up in an Anglican church, and surprisingly had never heard of Ash Wednesday or Lent!
But, one of the reasons that I love to participate in this season, and one of the reasons that I love to follow along with the church calendar, or a VERY simplified version of it, is because it gives us a different way of marking out time. In some ways it is an act of rebellion against this fallen world and the things that it holds dear. They say that Easter is about eggs and bunnies – I know that Easter is about the death and resurrection of my saviour, and in preparation for that I enter a period of privation, of giving things up, of lament and mourning. They say that Christmas is about gifts, and food, and families coming together, but I celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in Advent – preparing to celebrate the first, and looking forward to the second coming of Jesus. There are seasons like Epiphany, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Christ the King Sunday. All of these wonderful events tell us a different story to the one that we are bombarded with every day, and they remind us of what it is that we believe.
Another reason that I love Lent is because of the day before Ash Wednesday – Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Tuesday!) – as you can guess it is because it is tradition to eat pancakes on that day. This is because in the days before refrigeration when things like eggs and other perishables wouldn’t last 40 days, and you were fasting from all food, you had to use it up, the easiest way? Make pancakes! The feast before the fast! I love it!
But it also points us to, again, the pouring out of the Spirit on Christ, just before he went into the wilderness. The wonderful feeling that would have been to have the Father say from heaven ‘This is my beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased!’ But then to be driven from there to 40 days of fasting. It must have been a stark contrast, to say the least!
It is customary to give something up at Lent, as a sign of our mourning, as an identification with Christ in his fasting, and to take our focus off the things of this world, and to consider more the work of Jesus, to prepare us for Easter. I have chosen to give up caffeine, and sugar in all it’s insidious forms! This is not going to be an easy Lent, but it is actually not, for me, about what I can get out of Lent, not for the health benefits, but rather for the fact that when I feel a craving, or I feel a headache because I have not had caffeine for a few days, I remind myself about what Jesus went through, and I can grieve my own sins, the very things that I sometimes still hold onto, the things that I need to let go, and the reasons why Christ had to go to the cross at Easter.