Re-Lent

Once again, the season of Lent has overstayed its welcome in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a firm believer in the value of Lent. I wouldn’t trade for anything that period of intense reflection and contemplation of God and the walls I’ve built between Him and me.

But I’d make it two weeks shorter if I could.

Really, my biggest problem with Lent isn’t Lent, it’s Easter. Every year by about this time, despite my best intentions, the effects of the powerful Ash Wednesday service start to wear off, and the subdued feel of Lenten Sunday services lose their impact.

Compounding that is the knowledge that my church does Holy Week extremely well. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are a spiritual rollercoaster at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary; I really enter into the story and am genuinely moved by the journey. These services are – as they should be – a highlight of my year, so it’s really tempting for me to look past the rest of Lent and move into Holy Week Mode a few weeks early.

There’s also the fact that by-in-large, Easter in our society is still Easter. Despite the best efforts of Hallmark and Cadbury, the secular side of the holiday hasn’t managed to eclipse the Crucifixion-Resurrection story. Chocolate bunnies and eggs still don’t mean as much to the non-Christian as the Cross and Empty Tomb mean to us. That means we Christians don’t really need Lent to keep us focused on Jesus (rather than the Bunny) the way we need Advent to help us stay centred on Jesus (rather than Santa).

Advent – the other season where liturgical churches are decorated in purple – is also somewhat sombre and serious, but there are aspects of it that make it much more accessible than Lent. Each of the four Sundays of Advent is assigned a different theme – peace, hope, joy and love – so I look forward to hearing sermons and singing songs that fit into those topics. The fact that Christmas always seems to come so quickly makes Advent seem all too short, most years.

Lent, on the other hand, has no themes to help mark the milestones. It’s meant to be a largely featureless, often bleak period, and it’s not the obvious counterpoint to a parallel secular season. Therefore, the purposes it serves are largely internal. There are a few Lenten rituals, but it’s so easy to go through the motions and fall emotionally or spiritually out-of-step with why we need Lent. What’s more, since Lent is 50% longer than Advent, it’s at least 50% tougher to stay in the spirit of the season for the whole time.

Remembering to be sombre and thoughtful isn’t easy. Choosing to take extra time each day to spend with God doesn’t come naturally. Self-denial – even if all you’re giving up is something as superfluous as social networking – takes work. (If it didn’t, it wouldn’t qualify as self-denial, would it?) And given the frailties of flesh, it’s pretty unlikely that a couple extra weeks are going to make that much difference in our quest to skim off all of the slag of our lives. So why does Lent have to be so long?

Maybe because I don’t want it to be. After all, if Lent was simple, pleasant and easy, how could I expect it to help me grow?

Peace be with you.

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About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
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4 Responses to Re-Lent

  1. Janna says:

    I think part of the point is that we get really tired of it, tired of waiting for the triumph of Easter, tired of abstaining, tired of Lent.

    I wonder if part of the problem, though, is that the church doesn’t permeate our lives anymore. It’s a Sunday thing, and sometimes it’s more than once a week, but usually it’s Sundays-only, partly because there aren’t services at any other times.

    We don’t pray the Daily Office. There isn’t a lot of attention paid to Spiritual Formation, and most people have no idea what a Spiritual Director is.

    And then there are the changes that came with the BAS, which don’t follow the same flow that the BCP does. I’m not talking service here, I’m talking church year. This coming Sunday is Lent IV; Lent V is Passion Sunday, did you know that? And then it’s finally Palm Sunday and Holy Week (when there ought, rightly, to be a service every day) and then Easter Week (which ought to be observed on both Monday and Tuesday).

    The things we are doing to our faith, and the things we are doing to our church, they worry me. Sometimes I think that people leave the church because they don’t understand why we do what we do, and there’s nobody to ask because so few people (including clergy) even know the answers to the questions.

  2. robpetkau says:

    No, Janna. I didn’t know about Passion Sunday — I always thought that was another name for Palm Sunday. You make some good points about the simplification of our faith — we want to make it more accessible, not less meaningful. Great comments! Thanks for reading!

  3. Pingback: Re-Lent 2012 | Disciplehood

  4. Pingback: 40 Simple Truths | Disciplehood

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