Just prior to the start of the Advent Season, I explained that one of the purposes for Christ’s Incarnation was to reclaim the entirety of God’s creation for God and His holy purposes which in the beginning He called “good.” I emphasized that part of this creation, of course, is time. In Ephesians 5:16, St. Paul exhorts Christians to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” Therefore, the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit developed a Liturgical Calendar for this very purpose of redeeming the time.
In an article written by KimBerlee Conway Ireton, Ms. Ireton asks three compelling questions that some of us may have after reading the above – “Why do I choose to embrace the church year? What about this particular ordering of time is so compelling? And what effect does living according to the church calendar have on my moral and spiritual formation?”
Ms. Ireton’s answer is – “Embracing this way of marking the year has formed my faith and my character, in large part, because I am repeatedly thrust back into the life of Jesus through the stories told and retold each season. These stories place Christ daily before my eyes and point me back to the One whom I am all too prone to forget in the busyness and bustle of my life. Because each season has a special emphasis, I have opportunities to focus on specific areas of spiritual growth as I live out that season. Like any spiritual discipline, living the church year is most meaningful, most formative, and most transformative when we keep at it, embracing its seasons and their rhythms, allowing the life of Jesus to speak again and again into our own lives, seeking always to follow in the way Jesus leads us, year after year” (“Redeeming Time” in Christian Reflection, 2010).
It is for this reason that one of the major aspects of my vision for parish ministry is to help develop the liturgical life of the parish and to help all parishioners to incorporate the Liturgical seasons and celebrations into their lives. I call this plan collectively, “Redeeming the Time.” “Redeeming the Time” means planning for the themes, moods, and liturgies of the Christian Year, and also includes special reinforcing festivities to help make it all an active and anticipated part of life as a Christian.
Today, I want to look at the theme and mood of Lent. Then next week examine the liturgical changes during Lent which flow out of the Lenten theme and mood. First, let’s consider the theme of Lent. “Lent is a season of soul searching and repentance. It is a season of reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated baptism.
By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days in preparation of his earthly ministry. Thus, the first theme of Lent is withdrawal into the wilderness with Jesus in preparation.” The second theme of Lent, which is closely related with the first theme, is that it is a time of submitting to the discipline of discipleship. In order to be disciples of Christ, we must undergo the spiritual disciplines necessary to be conformed into Christ’s image (“Season of Lent” by Ken Collins).
The mood of Lent is one of sober contemplation and somber striving after holiness. In her article referred to earlier, Ms. Ireton describes the mood of Lent well. She states that each season of the Liturgical Year “has a special emphasis, [in which] I have opportunities to focus on specific areas of spiritual growth as I live out that season. In Lent the focus is on repentance—turning away from the sin that clouds our vision and encrusts our hearts and turning toward God who alone can redeem and transform us. Therefore, I can learn patience in this season by fasting from food or an activity. Fasting creates space in my life for God, so this season is also a time when I learn again to discern the still, small voice of God as he speaks to my heart and mind. Sometimes that voice speaks words of conviction, calling me to repent of some habit of thought, word, or deed. Sometimes, God’s voice speaks words of comfort, reminding me how deeply and wholly I am loved, regardless of what I do or don’t do. Either way, listening to God’s voice helps me to see myself more clearly and draws me deeper into relationship with Christ” (“Redeeming Time” in Christian Reflection, 2010).