Selections from our Worship Service

February 17, 2013
1st Sunday in Lent


Lent

"The Season of Lent"

Beth Ballance



THE SEASON OF LENT

Lent is the time in which Christians prepare for the great celebration of Easter. The season of Lent consists of the 40 days (and six Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday. During Lent, Christians focus on renewing our faith and commitment to Jesus the Christ so that, when we come to the great day of Easter, we do so with renewed joy.

For early Christians, the celebration of the resurrection was the central focus of their community life. It was the first celebration Christians kept. To do so, they moved their day of worship from Saturday Sabbath, the last day of the week, to the first day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Similarly, Easter was the first festival to emerge as a season of the Christian year. For at least the first two centuries, the focus remained on Easter. Christians met for worship on Saturday at 6 p.m. and continued in prayer and meditation until about 3 a.m. on Sunday, when they celebrated Communion. They prepared for this event by fasting on Saturday. Later the fasting was extended to include Friday, a period of 40 hours, to commemorate the time Jesus’ body lay in the tomb. Later still, the period of fasting was extended to include Monday to Saturday or “Holy Week” as we know it. By the year 600 the period had extended to 40 days prior to Easter (not including Sundays) as a time of final preparation for catechumens, those seeking membership in the church by profession of faith. The season we now call Lent developed from this time of preparing.

Although this 40 day period of preparation was originally intended for catechumens, in time many church members voluntarily undertook, for their own self-discipline, this 40 days of penitence and fasting, reflecting on their baptismal vows and at Easter joining with the catechumens in renewing their baptismal promises.

Today Lent offers us the same opportunity for reflection and renewal. The richness of Lent lies in its simplicity. Crosses are made of simple wood. The color used during Lent is purple, indicating a penitential period. In our over-consuming, driven society, we need a time to pull back and take stock of our lives. Lent is at its best when it encourages us to do so, and provides us with the images, the silence, and the simplicity that move us to new depth.





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