On observing Lent

Christians around the globe are now in the season of Lent. The word Lent may have Anglo-Saxon origins, meaning to lengthen, as in referring to the longer days in the season of spring. Over the centuries, Christians have developed several traditions to assist them in their 40 day (not counting Sundays) preparation for the celebration of Easter Sunday, and the resurrection of Jesus. Here are a few of them:

  • Preaching, reading, studying, praying, and focussing on the New Testament Passion Narratives, which highlight the last days of Jesus’ earthly ministry; along with his journey to Jerusalem, his arrest, trial, sentence, crucifixion, suffering and death.
  • Worship Services that communicate a more reflective, sombre mood by omitting (in some denominations liturgically burying) the singing or saying of hallelujah and alleluia; as well as singing hymns with tunes in the minor key, which are often inspired by and based on the Passion Narratives. In Lutheran tradition, it has been (perhaps more so in previous generations than today) common to listen to J.S. Bach’s Passion of St Matthew and Passion of St John during the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Palm-Passion Sunday, and Good Friday Worship Services are especially designed to engage worshippers in acts of sincere confession and repentance of sin—both personal and collective; remembering with humility our mortality and hence our utter dependence on God; and the desire to journey with Jesus in the way of the cross.
  • The practice of giving something up in a sacrificial way for Lent in order to be in solidarity with Christ and the world’s poor. In our part of the world, that might include no television, no movies, or no Internet during Lent. The operative principle for giving something up in a sacrificial way during Lent is that it needs to be sacrificial; i.e. something that you value and takes up much of your time, energy and resources. For example, it is pointless to give up chocolate for Lent if you do not eat chocolate.
  • The practice of taking something extra on for Lent. For example, you may wish to spend extra time in prayer, meditation or study. Many churches offer their parishioners special mid-week Lenten Worship Services or Study opportunities or social justice projects that connect us with the world’s poor through benevolent organisations like Canadian Lutheran World Relief<www.clwr.org>.

   The Lenten season has inspired poets, musicians and artists alike down through the ages. Here is the first of 21 stanzas, (divided up into 7 parts to coincide with the Good Friday Tenebrae Service on the 7 last words of Jesus on the cross) one of my favourites, by the nineteenth century hymn writer, Thomas B. Pollock: “Jesus in thy dying woes, even while thy life-blood flows, craving pardon for thy foes: Hear us holy Jesus.” One of my favourite works of art is Salvador Dali’s 1951 painting, “Christ of St John of the Cross.

Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dali

  

   Whatever you do to observe Lent, may you find meaning and purpose in it to enrich, inspire and deepen you in your faith journey. I invite readers of this post to make a comment and share how you observe Lent.  A blessed Lent to you.

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About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

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