Another Lent ends
Some theologians say Lent ends on Holy Thursday. Others hold fast to Holy Saturday. Lent lasts 40 days. The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday. Six weeks later excluding Sundays, Lent is over. Then, it’s Easter. Christ rises triumphantly from the grave to reign forever. Looking back, did the richness of this liturgical season prepare us for Easter? Were the sacrifices promised in earnest kept in earnest? Or, did resolutions and/or sacrifices made in earnest slip away buried by the busyness of life and living? Maybe the one sacrifice kept became “living water.” Has our prayer and self-denial led us to a closer walk with Christ?
The Upper Room says that Lent focuses on “simple living, prayer and fasting." Add to that Bible Study, sacred music, reflecting with God in nature and a myriad of alternate options too numerous to mention.
Lent, Advent or any liturgical season, Bible Study is good alone or in community. Disciple Bible Study groups continue to refresh the spiritual walk of people of faith not to mention knowledge added. Alone, individuals dive into the power of contemplation and the written Word filling us with joy, repentance, sorrow and newcommitment. Biblical stories and passages of scripture bring light and direction to our minds.
Exchanging simple living for a complex life is really hard. Our norm is for a better life. Our pace is often run, run, run; hurry, hurry, Hurry. How do ever get fed by verses like Isaiah 40: 30-31 if we do not slow down. “Even youths shall faint and grow weary,” it says, “and young men will fall exhausted. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
We are; I am the least familiar with the ancient practice of fasting. Our Lord spends forty days in the desert preparing himself for a difficult three year ministry reminding us that “humankind does not live by bread alone.”Desert fathers and mothers in ancient times speak affirmatively about the contribution of fasting to their daily walk as well. For example, St. Basil offers this reflection. “Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence of meat. Real fasting is abstinence from evil.” Jesus and St. Basil invite to study this spiritual discipline and practice it safely.
Prayer is the most familiar discipline and needs the least amount of explanation. Ironically, Jesus’ own disciples ask him to teach them to pray. Did they not know how? In any case, Jesusteaches the disciples to pray with a petition found in Matthew 6:9-13.
Before and after Lent ends, let’s remind ourselves of spiritual disciplines practiced in every season of the church year-practices good for soul and body.
Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton