It’s difficult for me to believe that Lent commences tomorrow. Part of that difficulty is wrapped up in my lack of understanding of how quickly the church year whizzes by. My evangelical upbringing did not honor the church year, as observed in so many mainline, orthodox, and Catholic churches. That, of course, extended to Lent.
Over time, I’ve become very involved in observing the various waypoints of the church year, discovering the various ways many Lent observing faith traditions journey through Lent. In the process Lent, Advent, and other similar traditions provide comfort and spiritual centering for my life. Over time these various faith traditions have sunk in and nourish my soul.
Ash Wednesday is one of those waypoints. In this age-old simple ritual of accepting ashes on my forehead, and being reminded by the ash imposing clergy of my mortality with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”, I’m annually reminded that, as the old spiritual says, ‘This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.”
Orthodox Lent has already with Forgiveness Sunday services last Sunday. I’ve observed this healing practice at St. John Orthodox – Eagle River, and Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox – Anchorage. What a wonderful healing practice which should be emulated by many more churches.
Often, Lent observing Christians are asked about what they are giving up for Lent, with somewhat humorous tongue-in-cheek replies. In fact, the annual Twitter Lent Tracker for 2017 (see https://www.openbible.info/labs/lent-tracker/2017) indicates the top 10 Lenten give-ups seem to have little to do with drawing closer to God at this season.
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Lifeway Research started its own poll Lenten poll this year and discovered these were the top ways Christians said they would be observing Lent: Fast from a favorite food or beverage (57%), Attend church services (57%), Pray more (39%), Give to others (38%), Fast from a bad habit (35%), Fast from a favorite activity (23%). (see http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2017/february/what-to-give-up-for-lent-2017-twitter-top-100-ideas.html)
I’m impressed with people who resolve to do something for others or take up a useful habit during Lent. The Christianity Today article, noted above, stated “LifeWay found that nearly 3 in 10 evangelical believers (28%) now observe the Lenten season before Easter, while Catholics remain most likely to do so (61%).” To me that is a startling but growing number.
Another Orthodox practice that impresses me is their rigorous fasting during Lent, primarily to keep their heads and bodies clean and clear to fully participate in the joys and sorrows of what the Lenten season brings.
If you do not observe Lent or haven’t been exposed to its practices and significance, I urge you give it a try starting with Ash Wednesday tomorrow.
Lenten blessings to each of you.