Since the earliest times, Christians have entered into an extended season of preparation for the celebration of the resurrection (Easter) as a powerful opportunity to be further conformed to Christ. This season of preparation eventually came to be formalized (325AD) as a 40-day season that we now call Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and finishes on Maundy Thursday with a short feast meal on Thursday evening. Good Friday and Holy Saturday then pick up the fasting again which ends Saturday evening at the Great Easter Vigil. The forty days of Lent echo a handful of significant biblical stories involving 40 days: Jesus fasting in the wilderness, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Jonah preaching repentance in Nineveh, and more.
The purpose of Lent can be captured in three values (humility, transparency, and solidarity), which when taken together orient us toward a fourth: maturity. These four values are foundational to our Eucharist Church vision of what it looks like to follow Jesus and be in communion with Him… to live all of life in reference to Christ.
Three practices are central to our Lenten journey: confession, fasting, and almsgiving.
You could think of Lent as a special season of transparency. It is a time when we come face-to-face with ourselves: our sin, our neediness, our patterns of dysfunction and disobedience. It’s a time for reconciliation with others and humility before God. We enter into this introspection with the guidance of the Holy Spirit while always remembering that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4), and that God promises forgiveness to all who confess (I John 1:8-9). Our confession and repentance are vital to a deepening sense of communion with God and others. Through it we experience the joy that only communion with God can bring (Luke 15:7). To help you with your practice of confession, we have provided some examen’s based on the seven deadly sins. You can use these for personal reflection.
Mutual Confession liturgy – a liturgy designed for believers to confess sin to each other.
Confession with a Priest can be arranged by appointment with one of our priests.
Fasting is the practice most widely associated with the season of Lent. Fasting takes several forms:
- Fasting with the Church: For the vast majority of the history of the Christian history, the Church has exhorted all faithful followers of Christ to practice abstention from meat, dairy, eggs, and alcohol (or some variation of such) throughout the 40 days of Lent. This fast does not apply on Sundays which are always considered feast days, as it is the day of the celebration of the resurrection. The forty days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday and finish on Maundy Thursday.
- Fasting as the Holy Spirit personally leads you: During Lent people often choose to give up something that is generally considered good (not sinful) for the purpose of cultivating something that is great (i.e. a deepening of one’s communion with Christ). This could include something such as chocolate or listening to music or a favorite podcast or reading the news or watching a favorite TV show – anything that is not sinful. This differs from renunciation in that fasting from this is intended to be a means of becoming more aware of the goodness of this gift. It also opens up time and space to seek God more deeply while providing the opportunity to reveal what is not rightly ordered about our affections or attachment to this good thing.
A third important practice (though not properly called fasting) is Renunciation. In renunciation we repudiate and abandon practices or habits that are destructive to the soul. This is not merely something to be done for 40 days, but a conscious attempt to permanently remove these things from our lives. Things such as pornography, theft, boasting, dishonesty, etc. would fall into this category.
A combination of all three of the above is the most powerful way to enter into the experience of Lent.
To enter into the fullness of Lent we must be committed to addressing the plight of the poor. This is not simply a call to a token offering of a few dollars here and there; this is a call to give sacrificially and generously.
The Abundance Offering: Lent 2020
In order to provide us a collective opportunity to give, we have designated an International Christian organization as a partner for our Abundance Offering (a separate offering from our general giving; 100% goes to support the needs of the poor).
Partner: Hope International
Hope International is a Christian based nonprofit that works with some of the poorest populations in the world to provide micro-finance loans, practical support, and discipleship. For more about Hope International, please check out their website or talk to Ivy Sjoholm, who would be happy to tell you about Hope.