It seems a strange thing to admit, rather like confessing to a class of sixth graders that you enjoy homework, but Lent is my favorite liturgical season. Other seasons are beloved with good reason, and many of us tell stories of Easter egg hunts, the singing of Christmas Carols, or even visiting diocesan camps or seaside chapels during summer’s ordinary time. I do love Advent, but it is a season continually squashed by the behemoth of Christmas. Christmas is full of joy, but it also carries a lot of materialistic baggage and gives free rein to the antics of a patron saint, the legalistic troll known as the Elf on the Shelf. I love Easter Sunday, one of my favorite days of the year, but I will never forget the disappointment I felt during my curacy seeing a nearly empty church the following Sunday. Easter, as a season, never seems to live up to its promise.
So, despite its lack of flash, I appreciate the depth of Lent. Lent is humble and unassuming. It preaches simplicity to a culture steeped in excess. While I exult in joy, and I was spiritually raised with the great Anglo-Catholic lesson that “anything worth doing is worth overdoing”, Lent advises restraint. The season guides us to choose less instead of more and counsels teaching through silence over erudite elocution. The truth is that I need Lent. Lenten Sundays combine the message of preparing for Easter while celebrating the reality of Easter in the Eucharist. This practice suits our time. We live in a period that is already and not yet, the kept promises of God surrounding and uplifting us while other hopes remain unfulfilled.
I confess to needing the seriousness of Lent, focusing on something deep and true to avoid becoming a thoughtless dilettante of the liturgical world. I need to reflect on those old commandments that I have read thousands of times and consider: What idols have I exchanged for the ancient Asherah and Baal?
St. John’s in Vernon, my new call, uses Lent as its primary Stewardship season. I have never experienced this arrangement before, but it has challenged me to devote more thought and prayer to how I am spending my money. What charities am I supporting, and what products am I buying? Do they align with the values that I find in scripture and teach in my parish? Can I find a simpler, more local option, or find a way of reusing something or going without?
Lent is challenging in its simplicity. It calls for focus and reflection. It demands something of me, and it has become my favorite season.