Some of us have heard the old saying, “You can’t get there from here.” In the days before GPS it was a response to someone asking directions on how to get from point A to point B. The old saying put a person on notice that there wasn’t one, simple, direct highway or road or pathway from A to B.
Contrary to the displays in stores of bunnies and baskets, of candy corn and chocolates, we Episcopalians don’t generally ‘get’ from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day without taking the winding road through the Season of Lent.
The year 2020 has us making this journey via Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary which determines our Sunday biblical readings. Each year we begin by going into the wilderness with Jesus where, yes, he faces temptations. Then this year we’ll encounter a faithful Jewish man named Nicodemus, an unnamed Samaritan woman at a well, a man blind from birth, as well as the astonishing raising of Lazarus. These are stories rich in word pictures which invite us to be companions of Jesus as he makes his way from the Mount of Transfiguration to Jerusalem and the ultimate conflict with the Roman authorities.
Along the way we’ll experience more hours of daylight. That’s no surprise since one root of the word ‘Lent’ is lencten which has to do with the ‘lengthening of days’ or spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Council of Nicea, held in the year 325 of the Common Era, set the length of Lent as 40 days not counting Sundays. That’s because every Sunday for Christians is a ‘little Easter.’ Hence, Sundays are ‘in’ Lent, not ‘of’ Lent.
But since, as a faith community, we are most often together on Sunday, our worship takes on a more somber tone. On the First Sunday in Lent we will pray The Great Litany in procession. Thereafter, following our opening hymn, we’ll use The Penitential Order to begin our celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our altar hangings will shift to purple and the lovely flowers to which we are accustomed will be absent. The evening before Lent begins we will ‘entomb’ our ‘Alleluias’ until Easter Day (meaning we will omit saying Alleluia during worship). These shifts all intended to enrich our spiritual lives, deepen our faith, expand our horizons, and confirm our calling to be aware we are God’s people in all our comings and goings. We are each invited to the observance of a Holy Lent.
Peace and love in Christ!