06 February 2008

Entering Into Lent

Editor's Note: While Monday was the 'ash day' for those of us in the Syriac tradition, today is Ash Wednesday for most Christians in the west. In that spirit, I am sharing some reflections on the meaning of Lent, regardless of the day on which you begin/began your Lent.

As we enter into the season of Lent, we gather together to mark ourselves with Ashes as a sign of our repentance. This sign, an ancient one to be sure, has a special significance and importance in the context of Judeo-Christian history… but the sign’s value is empty if it remains only a sign.

To be marked with ashes today means that we recognize and admit to all people we encounter that we are sinners… that we have fallen short of the high mark of our calling, and that we need the grace of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to reach toward the hope of our calling.

During the season of Lent, we are called to discipline our bodies, to reign in our desires and our wants. We are called to simplify our lives and focus more intently on Christ. Lent isn’t about getting ashes on your head today and kissing a crucifix on Good Friday. Lent isn’t about fish on Friday and Stations of the Cross. Lent is about the transformation of one’s life, seeking to emulate more and more the example of the Savior in our daily walk.

If this isn’t our goal, then there is no point in following Lenten discipline, nor is there a point in receiving the mark of ashes upon our foreheads. In fact, to do so would be a lie… a sign of “I want the world to think I want to be better, but I am more than happy to be just what I am now.”

This viewpoint is often borne out of a static, unchanging view of salvation. “I was baptized, thus I am saved.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Salvation is a constant, evolving journey. The Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and even those Protestant Churches that flowed from the Wesleyan tradition have a saying: “I was saved, I am being saved, I will be saved.” This expression lays it out… we are in the midst of our journey, and each day is an experience of the salvation of our God. Lent is a time when we are called to enter more consciously into this experience, to reach out more intently and to receive more fully the lavish gifts of the Spirit that God has poured out upon us through Christ.

This is what Lent is all about.

May your Lent this year be a time of transformation and renewal, to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To our holy, triune God be all praise and honor, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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