Message from Deacon Valerie
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on February 21, 2023 at 3:30 PM|
“An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” (Don S. Armentrout & Robert Boak Slocum) states that early Christians observed “a season of penitence and fasting” in preparation for the Paschal feast, or Pascha (BCP, pp. 264-265). The season now known as Lent (from an Old English word meaning “spring,” the time of lengthening days) has a long history. Originally, in places where Pascha was celebrated on a Sunday, the Paschal feast followed a fast of up to two days. In the third century this fast was lengthened to six days. Eventually this fast became attached to, or overlapped, another fast of forty days, in imitation of Christ's fasting in the wilderness. The forty-day fast was especially important for converts to the faith who were preparing for baptism, and for those guilty of notorious sins who were being restored to the Christian assembly. In the western church the forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, omitting Sundays. The last three days of Lent are the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Today Lent has reacquired its significance as the final preparation of adult candidates for baptism. Joining with them, all Christians are invited “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word” (BCP, p. 265).
What will Lent look like for you? Will you complete specific activities or try to accomplish certain goals during the 40 days of Lent?
I have tried over the years to focus on self-examination, fasting, self-denial, planning more focus reading and meditation of God’s holy Word. I have found that it is in preparation, the self-examination, when I am the most successful in modeling Jesus in the wilderness. I stop and look at my current situation, stresses, longings, dreams and desires to see what would best serve me to have a closer walk with God right now in the here and now during Lent.
The year after my mother had her second diagnosis of breast cancer, I decided to give up red meat. At the time it was being highly regarded as a carcinogen. I likened it to treating my body as a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And to this day, I rarely eat beef any more. On occasion, I will eat a thick juicy hamburger or a tender filet mignon once or twice a year.
During another Lenten season, I would fast for 6 days during the week and would eat 3 meals on Sunday. I must admit that for me the activity which I completed and felt the most impacted by was when I had purposeful and planned reading of God’s holy word. This would have included reading a book and meditating on a specific Gospel or book of poems about God’s creation. I was able to see and experience previously read and discussed scripture from an entirely different perspective. This is one of the reasons, I thoroughly enjoy St. Alban’s Adult formation poetry sessions. Our discussions are so thought provoking on the goodness and wonders of God.
I have found much joy in combining a little of each of these things. For example, giving up chocolate and meditating daily. Or exercising every day and drinking more water, and focusing on a specific Gospel writer. I realized my joy was not in the denial but in the commitment to do these things because of my love for Jesus. The more I understood that I was made in God’s image, the more I wanted to try to be more and more like him. My commitment is only for 40 days and I always want to try and stick it out because His Son stuck it out for us and gave His life to reconcile us to His Father.
So, each year, I no longer try to decide “what am I going to give-up” but “what can I do to give back of myself” for all that God has done for me. What will Lent look like for you?