A Lenten Primer

The Rev. Nicholas Beasley

Lent is an ancient season in the life of the church, a time of penitence and preparation for the Easter feast. It was observed in the early church in the Mediterranean world but was heightened in the colder, darker regions of Western Europe as our faith practices developed in the Middle Ages. Irish monks and Anglo-Saxon bishops created practices of penitence that still shape our sense of a well-kept Lent. They restricted their diets away from rich foods, omitting meat, butter, wine and other fine things. They fasted, particularly on Fridays and Wednesdays. They shrouded art and decoration in their churches, depriving themselves of visions of beauty. They took particular care to be generous to the poor.

A modern Lent often includes abstaining from chocolate or alcohol for forty days, with some relaxation of the fast each Sunday, which is always a feast day of Christ’s Resurrection. A social media fast is a popular recent development, especially if that time is replaced by prayer and Bible reading. Indeed, the Book of Common Prayer makes it clear that our giving up is to make room for taking on, things like “self-examination and repentance; prayer…and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (265). We are invited to deny ourselves to make room for the things of God in our lives.

Life in a prosperous, consumer society is very full but not always full of the things that matter most; prayer, God’s presence, and the truth borne into our lives by the Bible. Lent is a chance to turn down some of the busy noise of this kind of life and listen for the presence of God. Led to repentance by the presence of God, we are invited to accept a new life offered in Christ, most dramatically at the end of Lent, in the cross of Jesus and his resurrection. Do you want to grow your spiritual life? Any of your clergy would love to talk with you about prayer, the Bible, and life with God. Call us. If you want to explore spiritual practice in your own, there is no better place than Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church. Find their many resources for prayer and Bible here: https://prayer.forwardmovement.org/home.

Learn more about other important updates in the latest church newsletter: The Epistle – May 11, 2023

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