February 22nd marks the beginning of the season of Lent
If you’re reading this, you’re likely not a stranger to the season of Lent. And yet, if you’re a human with life demands and commitments, Lent seems to sneak up every year, surprising us with how far into the calendar year we are. Perhaps even tempting us to double down on not-yet-enacted-upon New Year’s resolutions.
“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.” –The Book of Common Prayer, 265, Liturgy of Ash Wednesday
These words from the Ash Wednesday liturgy give us some anchors: anchors that provide more than just a chance to double down on resolutions, anchors that give us insight into how Lent might be less a season “to do” (or, “to don’t”); and more a season “to be” with God in a potentially deeper and intentional way.
What might the invitation for “self-examination and repentance” look like?
Our siblings in 12 step recovery programs are some of the experts, here: the fourth step in recovery calls for making a “searching and fearless inventory of ourselves”. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions offers this caution: “Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is still out of reach.” For those of us feeling stuck in our faith journey, this is a space for curiosity, giving us the chance to sit with our deep selves and with God. This is an invitation to ask about where our resistance and “stuckness” sit, preventing us from moving closer to God and our siblings in Christ.
What does the invitation to prayer, fasting and self-denial look like for you this Lent? How and where are you making space for the Holy?
In Pursuing God’s Will Together, Ruth Haley Barton gives us this helpful description of discernment: “Discernment, in a most general sense, is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God – both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives.” Maybe the invitation to prayer, fasting and self-denial looks like giving up chocolate. Yet, Barton’s description, and the invitation of Lent bids us look past chocolate or wine or too many visits to Starbucks, to see how God is active in the mundane and ordinary slivers of our lives.
Finally, what does the invitation to God’s holy Word look like for you this Lenten season?
What a gift we have in Scripture and in our liturgical life that steeps us in Holy Scripture week after week! Yet how invested are we in the capacity for Scripture to be the lens through which we see the world?
At the end of it all, the invitation to a holy Lent is a gift the church extends to each of us, inviting us to seek and see the spaces where we might move ever-so-closer to God and one another. If you’re overwhelmed by all that this invitation might mean for you, take a deep breath, light a candle and make space for the Holy. Start there.
Written By: Rebekah Hatch