My friend, Wanda Devereaux, a Montgomery lawyer, volunteered to do a piece for the Report on Lent. I thought it would be good to include this since we are approaching Easter. The piece is set out below.
The Blessed Season Of Lent
Lent is the liturgical season of the Church calendar which precedes Easter. This year, Easter is on April 12th so we are drawing near to the end of Lent and I have some reflections on my Lenten observations this year and on the history and significance in general of Lent to those who engage in serious observation of this very important season. Lent is most actively observed in this country by Roman Catholics, Episcopalians (Anglicans), Lutherans and several other denominations. The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday, which is marked by fasting and a worship service, usually a Eucharist (a worship service which includes administration of Holy Communion), during which ashes in the form of a cross are placed upon the worshipper’s forehead as an outward symbol of the beginning of Lent and an inward symbol of the Biblical pronouncement that “From dust we art, to dust we shall return”. (Ecclesiastes 3:20) Ash Wednesday is preceded by Shrove Tuesday (liturgical) or Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras (secular), a day and night of festivity preceding the fasting period of Lent. The season is 40 days long, ending on the Friday before Palm Sunday. The 40 days represent the time Jesus spent in the desert, during which he battled with Satan, who repeatedly tempted Jesus into foreswearing the Father. Sundays, considered to be “mini-Easters”, are excluded in counting the 40 days of the season. There are many noted references to 40 in the Bible: the 40 days Moses spent on Mount Sinai, the 40 days and 40 nights of rain during Noah’s time and the wandering of the Israelites in the desert seeking the Promised Land, which lasted 40 years.
Most people are familiar with the practice of “giving up something” during Lent; in theory, we give up something we love or enjoy – sweets, smoking, alcohol; or in a more abstract concept, we might forego unhealthy or negative activities such as unkindness toward others or impatience with those close to us. In practice, many of us fail in our Lenten intentions early on in the season. Over the past few years, I have committed to a different approach to my Lenten observations. Instead of giving up something, I select a few positive spiritual practices, chosen to acknowledge the true meaning of Lent which is to engage in a period of penance and introspection. Last year I wrote a personal note to someone each day, rather randomly selecting persons who came to mind. I chose close friends, casual acquaintances, people with whom I had not been in touch for years, and – perhaps most significantly persons with whom I had become estranged and even those whom I did not particularly like. The feedback I received from these notes was in many cases a total surprise and resulted in several instances of creating or restoring a positive relationship. I learned that people still love to get handwritten, personal notes in today’s high-tech world of e-mailing and texting. The personal touch was appreciated by so many of those I wrote.
In fact, my note-writing proved to be such a positive experience that I am doing it again this year. Lent also provides an excellent opportunity to examine our Christian lives with the goal of deepening our spirituality and making us better servants of Christ. Examples of this way of observing Lent include daily Bible reading, daily prayer and a concentrated effort to live our lives as Christ would have us to do, particularly observing the second great commandment to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” This concept brings to mind the unattributed saying which advises to “preach the Gospel every day, with words when necessary.”
This practice envelops the traditional purpose of Lent: preparation of the believer – through prayer, penitence and self-denial – for Holy Week, which marks the Death and Resurrection of Jesus and recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ, culminating in the Easter Day observance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Holy Week includes the following religious Holy Days: Palm Sunday marks Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem; Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) commemorates the Last Supper in a beautiful service during which the Altar is stripped and the sanctuary is plunged into darkness; Good Friday symbolizes the Crucifixion. Saturday before Easter is observed by Easter Vigil, the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Faithful devotion to Lent and the joyous celebration of Holy Week provide the Christian with an unequaled opportunity to acknowledge the greatest of all events in Christian theology, the sacrifice of the Father’s Only Son that we might have eternal life, and the Resurrection. Diligent observation of Lent is not easy; it provides a real test of a Christian’s devotion and faith and helps us to grow spiritually in the grace of God.
Attorney At Law
I appreciate very much Wanda taking the time to write this piece. It’s important to have a good understanding of Lent and its significance. I must confess that Wanda educated me and I needed it.
The Easter Season is a very special time and it’s a reminder that Jesus Christ died for us and was raised from the dead. This fact gives all of us the promise of eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus is the very heart of Christianity. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:
If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith … . We are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.
The Apostle then goes on to say that if Jesus Christ hadn’t been raised our “faith is futile and we are still in our sins.” As we celebrate Easter this month, let it be a renewal of our faith and hope for the future. Jesus Christ has risen and that’s the good news of the season!
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