By Bishop David Bena
posted March 4, 2010
In a world where events and dates are flying by us, it’s often hard for Western Christians to seriously contemplate the Lenten Season. We like to reason that when Lent was invented, we lived in an agricultural society where life was much slower and more geared toward the changing of the seasons. Today, we say, life is fast; we simply don’t have time for all that spiritual breathing and stuff like that. Maybe for you and me, it will be different this year. Is there a chance that, we might slow down spiritually and find time to observe a holy Lent?
So let’s s-l-o-w down a minute and review just what Lent is. It is a church season of preparation, a time to prepare for the liturgical remembrance of the double colossal events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The name “Lent” is from the German “long” or “length,” the time of year when the days are lengthening. SO – I give you “LENT.” Many years ago, our Christian forebears determined that the number 40 was an important one, since Moses and his troops were in the Sinai 40 years, it rained 40 days and 40 nights while Noah bounced around in the ark, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness 40 days, etc, etc. So, they determined, the preparation season of Lent would be 40 days – PLUS six Sundays. The Sundays, being mini-resurrection observances, would not be fast days but would be celebration days. Count back 40 days and six Sundays and you arrive at a Wednesday which is called Ash Wednesday.
All right. We’ve got the name. And we’ve got the inclusive days. Now what do we do with them? Four practices are suggested for us in order that we might do the proper holy preparation for Jesus’ sacrificial death and mighty victory: Prayer, Penitence, Self-denial, and Giving. YUK! That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? But as my mother used to say, “It doesn’t have to be fun to be good for you.” Special prayer and Bible reading bring us closer to our Lord, something we always need to do but especially if we are to understand what Jesus went through FOR US. Penitence is important in that by being sorry for our sins of omission and commission and confessing them to God, we clear out the “junk on the runway” which keeps us from taking off. Self-denial is really important in that it helps us walk with Jesus in His major self-denial of the cross and passion. And special giving is important in our materially-oriented society so that we can take the focus off what we have and focus in on what Jesus gave for our souls rather than for our portfolios.
Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) this year is Wednesday, February 17. Let’s all try to go to church that day or night. Let’s dedicate ourselves to drawing close to Jesus this Lent. Let’s slow down spiritually each day and walk with Jesus in those last days of his earthly life, a life given for you and me, a life which reconciles us to our Father God and opens for us the door to eternal life.