Keeping a Holy Lent
How are you planning to keep Lent? If you don’t think about it, what will stop Lent being just like any other time of the year? If, like me, you value this period in the year as a divine gift - an opportunity for spiritual renewal - then make a plan. Now is the time to plan what you’ll be doing in Lent, not in a couple of weeks when the season is underway. As they say - failing to plan is planning to fail...
My bishop in Salisbury had a practice in Lent of not going to any meetings! This put his assistant bishop under some pressure ;-) But David used the season to visit the clergy in the Diocese. Dropping a regular meeting schedule allowed him the flexibility in his calendar to do that. I was quite struck by his purposefulness in doing that. He chose this time of year to prioritize building relationship.
The more traditional practices of Lent are disciplines of prayer, study and fasting. If you don’t already have a regular daily pattern of prayer and Bible reading, then perhaps this Lent would be an opportunity to take that up. Read through Mark’s gospel - just reading about a section a day will take you through the gospel from beginning to end. Say the morning and evening prayer services in the Prayer Book. Keep a list of people you are grateful for and thank God for each of them. Order a book on Amazon that you’ll read throughout Lent. What you choose to do is up to you. But choosing to do something is the choice to accept the gift of the season.
Fasting, in the Christian tradition, is both abstinence from food and a restriction in the type of food we eat. Orthodox Christians abstain from meat, dairy, wine and oil on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year - and then throughout the period of Lent. Roman Catholic Christians have historically observed restrictions on Fridays throughout the year and then throughout Lent although their practice is becoming less well observed. John Wesley insisted that his Methodist ministers fast every Wednesday and Friday - which meant no food at all until dinner time on those days. Anglicans have never had a strict discipline with respect to fasting. It’s up to us to choose. But voluntarily abstaining from what we crave is good discipline and a means of God’s grace to form Christ’s character in us. We learn not to be dictated to by our wants.
So - why not choose some disciplines for Lent - fasting, prayer, Bible reading, study, solitude, relationship-building. Take hold of the gift of the season and expect God to grow and deepen your faith and practice.